Palimpsest is the result of an off-the-cuff remark I made during a slide lecture in a drawing class. The “Wounded Bison” was painted about 17,000 years ago. I mentioned that the slide of the painting was a pale imitation of the actual painting and compared the light on the slide screen to a fire in a prehistoric cave. “Imagine this slide projected onto the side of a live Brahma bull to get a sense of the physicality of the painting.” Upon saying that I couldn’t resist the temptation of putting a live bull in an art gallery.
The installation took place at the grunt in 1999: it took place in the evening and consisted of a live bull in the darkened grunt gallery, slides of cave paintings and labyrinths were projected onto the side of the bull. I was surprised by the enormous size of the bull in the relatively small gallery setting. The gallery was crowded with viewers – standing close to the entrance – and spilling out onto to the lawn outside. A pervading hush of respect was present throughout the tableau.
A few comments regarding the cave paintings and this installation: The cave paintings were made in approximately 15,000 B.C.. The paintings are, as far as we know, the first known representations ever made by humans. This development of the ability to represent was an incredible feat in the evolution of the human consciousness. These representations are the first indications of the human capacity to use abstract form and symbol in order to express a sense of reflective awareness.
The cave paintings are sophisticated images in terms of representation, form, and symbol: they are naturalistic and convincingly represent the animal’s proportions, pose, and movement. Formally, they are unsurpassed in their expressive use of line and texture. In terms of symbolism, the animal’s energy and vitality are clearly conveyed through the vigorous use of line. It is widely believed by anthropologists and historians that the artist/hunter considered the paintings to be magical, that the artist gained power – an immanent communion with the spirit of the animal – by representing it in a realistic manner. Pictures, like words, are used to cast spells and charms.
This installation embodies 20,000 years of image compression, it finds the prehistoric in the modern, the ethereal in the material world, the wild in the captive, attainment in desire and reflection in projection.