Blogs > Cliopatria > Images and the Past

Mar 17, 2005 9:42 pm

Images and the Past

If archaeologists are right, 5000 years ago, someone in China carved constellations onto a ritual stone knife. I’m not sure how the archaeologists know they are constellation. At least when I look at the picture I don’t see them. But it is a fascinating looking knife, almost a sort of mask. It speaks of a different world.

The other night on cable I caught part of “Fellini Satyricon.” When I first saw it, at age 17 (I had just arrived at college), it confused the hell out of me. Watching it the other night, I sympathized. I know much more about Rome now; I have seen Etruscan and Roman art. I have some portraits of people who could step into the present without seeming out of place. Yet there are images, clowns, masks, and most of all a sense of perspective for which I can find no quick examples on the web. (this page may give a glimpse of some of this.) And yet that perspective can make an otherwise familiar image seem far more alien than Mars.

I think Fellini caught that strange Roman perspective in the movie. I don’t know if it was foreign to him, but it makes the film’s landscape a troubling dream.

Do we really know the past? Is it really just another country, like going from Belfast to Bali? Or if we are honest, are we trying to turn snatches of strange dreams into something we thing of as logical.

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