A Shifting Sense of Human Scale: Tracing ‘Deep Time’ Aspects of Human Depiction
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A contemporary interest in the often-neglected geological 'deep time' of the late nineteenth century regarding the study of human history within the humanities, arises with questions regarding the material and immaterial limits of the development of human cognition, and the methods by which a human history is documented (Shryock and Smail, 2011). What has been termed a 'deep human history' attempts to study the development of such a distributed human cognition and creative activity through the traces of the development of human cognition and consciousness that extend into, and are left upon the environment: the material artefacts, objects and materials of a culture. This paper, through a juxtaposition of diverse visual ephemera drawn from the seventeenth to the late nineteenth century: that of geological images, biblical depictions, modern painting, satirical illustrations and everyday depictions of emerging technologies, will trace the 'deep time' aspects of the development of a historically contingent imagination, cognition and perception that manifest within such depictions of the human form. Utilising especially the anthropological concept of meshwork (Ingold, 2011), and the neuroarchaeological concept of 'enactive signification' (Malafouris, 2007), this paper will point to an approach to the study of the development of human depictions that acknowledges the material and immaterial dimensions of human cognition and perception. By juxtaposing these approaches with that of contemporary art historical methods (Papapetros, 2012) it will point particularly to the importance of the multi-sensory, imaginary and spiritual dimensions of cognition that will be argued as entangled within the meshworks of material engagement.
Woodward, M (2013) ‘A Shifting Sense of Human Scale: Tracing ‘Deep Time’ Aspects of Human Depiction’, TAG on-sea 2013, Bournemouth University, Bournemouth, 18-20 Dec.
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