First Night: Going underground to search for artists lost in time
The Vertical Line Strand London
Friday 05 February 1999
Now, though, if you descend 30 metres below the Strand to the murky innards of a disused Tube station, you will find that the Underground has been commandeered for somewhat less gloomy considerations. A collaboration between the writer John Berger and Theatre de Complicite director, Simon McBurney, The Vertical Line takes you on an imaginary journey backwards in time and downwards in space to the Chauvet cave in France. It was here, in 1995, that paintings of animals were discovered which, dating back 32,000 years, constitute the oldest images created by man yet found.
A spooky combination of intrepid potholing and reverberating meditations on time and art, this powerful experience begins with saturation bombardment by images flashed up on a bank of television screens and ends in a tunnel of palpably dense darkness where we join in the attempt to recapture what it was like to discover these ur-paintings, collapsing the concepts of "then" and "now".
In between, the journey takes in a huge circular shaft where ghostly images of Berger lecturing on the astonishingly well preserved and life- like Egyptian funerary portraits from Fayum are projected on the bleak walls. It also includes an episode where you lie on mattresses by a defunct line and look up at lonely cloudscapes shifting across the barrel vaulting while Berger, aping the tones of a foreign correspondent, offers a front- line report on Corsica 3,000 BC.
The main philosophical point would seem to be that it is naive to call the art of cave painting "primitive". "There was no fumbling at the beginning," declares Berger. "The need to make images did not precede the talent for doing so." Allied to this assertion is the more difficult and tendentious notion that what gives the Sayum portraits and the animal paintings their special power is that the artists submitted to being looked at by their subjects: hence, the pictures are, in a curious way, self-portraits. The five remaining shows are, alas, fully booked. But the curious can follow the event on the Internet at www.innercity.demon.co.uk. A piquant conjunction of the ancient and modern.
- 1 Stamford Hill council removes 'unacceptable' posters telling women which side of the road to walk down
- 2 Kim Kardashian 'nude pictures' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence 'The Fappening' scandal
- 3 Scottish referendum 'English question': Tory MPs call on David Cameron to create an English first minister in wake of No vote
- 4 Iranian blogger found guilty of insulting Prophet Mohammad on Facebook sentenced to death
- 5 Free U2 album: How the most generous giveaway in music history turned into a PR disaster
Stamford Hill council removes 'unacceptable' posters telling women which side of the road to walk down
Kim Kardashian 'nude pictures' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence 'The Fappening' scandal
Iranian blogger found guilty of insulting Prophet Mohammad on Facebook sentenced to death
Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
Jennifer Lawrence 'naked sex video' will be leaked next, threatens 4Chan celebrity photo hacker
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...