Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Moving pictures

In Antiquity, French archaeologist and filmmaker Marc Azéma and collaborator Florent Rivère suggest that the origins of cinema lie in antiquity. After studying cave art for more than 20 years, Azéma uses examples from the Chauvet and other caverns to show that Paleolithic artists broke down animal movements in their portrayals to represent a graphic narrative. He found 53 ‬figures in‭ ‬12‭ ‬French caves that repeated 2 or more images to represent trot or gallop,‭ ‬head tossing, and tail shaking.‭ Far more than just making the aurochs appear lively in the light of a flickering fire, the early humans offset parts of the beasts with specific intention and precision to show their natural motion (see video here). “Lascaux is the cave with the greatest number of cases of split-action movement by superimposition of successive images. Some 20 animals, principally horses, have the head, legs or tail multiplied,” says Azéma. In addition, he and Rivère conclude that the ancient artists manipulated images by spinning them on etched bone disks - previously misidentified as buttons - held taut with sinew, a far distant precursor to the 19th c. thaumatrope (see photos here). Wow.
Cave-dwellers in the Cabinet:

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