msb ~056 First Contact

First Contact  

First Contact

A wonderful flow of conversation between painter Norman Ackroyd and writer Robert Macfarlane on Only Artists this morning. They moved back and forth between very different but connected practices, touching on many aspects of creativity. Their talk was a wonderful reminder of why I enjoy working with others through ClimateCultures and other projects.

Ackroyd commented on that creative moment when “I stop thinking altogether and let the hands do it,” prompting Macfarlane to remember “The oldest artistic image: that handprint on the cave wall. The hand is placed and the ochre is inhaled and spat.” I share his amazement that it’s now believed this artistry is more ancient than ‘us’; “that Neanderthal people were creating this work 64,000 years ago, that the art instinct predates our species.” But listening to them also triggered an association with the symbolism in old SF movies of first contact between humans and alien emissaries: the upheld hand, palm forward, a token that “I come in peace.” I wonder if we might see those first ghostly handprints afresh: self-awareness yes, but possibly also a warning or plea for care from one species long gone to another one now discovering its agency in reshaping its world.

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