While looking for something else I found this snippet from How Art Made the World. It deals with the exaggerated features of the Ice Age Venuses. Yes they’re unrealistic images of women, but why do they look unrealistic? The answer might be found in the actions of gulls. This segment filled me with ambiguous feelings, so it’s good to have the opportunity to watch it again.
I had to flip back to my original comments, because I remembered feeling quite negative about it. Yet looking at that clip it seemed that Nigel Spivey was an engaging presenter. It is an interesting topic and a change from the chronological histories and disaster porn which make up a lot of is history television.
The other clips available online made it clear what I disliked about the programme. It was the disjointed connection between prehistory and history, which can be seen in the clip below.
This clip shows what I liked and disliked about the programme. I liked taking the Egyptian images piece by piece and showing how an attempt at realism produces a distorted image. The problem with this explanation is that it relies on culture. That’s probably right, modern psychological experiments show that artistic styles are learned, so they’re embedded in a culture. If that’s the case then the neuroscience explanation fails badly, unless you argue that palaeolithic peoples were without culture. This was what I didn’t like about the series. Prehistoric explanations seemed biological and historic explanations were cultural. While I think we’re still playing out the effect literacy has on humans, I don’t think that literature created what is essentially humanity.
Ultimately showing coloured sticks to chicks tells you about chicks, but I’m not convinced it tells you much about modern humans. If it did then you’d have men going to places to gawp at women with unfeasibly large breasts and buttocks. Oddly some men have — but purely as an academic interest.