Perspectival “Costumes” and “Art”

While searching Google’s gigantic photo cache, I came across this startling and beautiful image:

Horned-AnimistIn this past I would have looked at this in a rather shallow way: through an “exotic” lens that completely fails to capture the ideas and transformations that this “costume” surely entails. Though I haven’t been able to identify the cultural context or source for this photo, it was archived under “animist.” If we assume an animist worldview is indeed being expressed, as seems likely, the person in this photo is no longer human but has become a non-human person (or what we would call an animal). Her perspective has been entirely altered so that she now sees the world through “animal” eyes, yet retains her human characteristics.

When attempting to source the image, I came across this rock painting on the Dogon escarpment in Mali:


If we again assume that this is expressive of an animist worldview, this is not simply “art.” Whatever this represents, “it” is doing something — the image is not simply painted on the rock, waiting to be admired. It is osmotically interacting with the rock face, which may actually be conceived as a membrane. Whereas we (westerners or materialists) think of rock as being hard and impermeable, animists think of it as being something permeable and potentially alive. Before the hard-headed among us scoff at the idea, let’s pause to consider that rock is, at an atomic level, moving and permeable.

The Dogon and scientists may have different inferential ideas about the kind of energy that flows in, through, or around rock, but flow it does.

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2 thoughts on “Perspectival “Costumes” and “Art”

  1. Sabio Lantz

    I once had a very intimate “Alive” encounter with a rock.
    Read here : “Death Rock

    Also, concerning animism — Shinto taught me some of it in Japan — lots of stories of that. To this day I love showing my kids any anime by Hayao Miyazaki.

  2. Larry Stout

    Geologists and petroleum engineers do in fact not only think of (some) rocks as permeable, but also measure the permeability very accurately, in units called millidarcies! However, not a few geologists and petroleum engineers are themselves impermeable to art! ;>)

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