stones, pre-history and political insight

archaeology might be understood as resurrecting memory and reconstructing a past lost to our present condition -how we might understand these findings and roll them into our consciousness is at the root of my thesis.

as technology improves what is ‘recovered’ gives us deeper insights into the nature of our origins, although always through the blurred lens of history. and always from the vantage point of the present. acknowledging this led to benjamins greatest insight -that of recognising that the past is only truly grasped ‘in a moment of danger’ as it presents itself to the historical subject. he talks of having ‘an unconditional commitment to the present ‘ and that the present is one fraught with danger.

‘articulating the past historically does not mean recognizing it ‘the way it really was’.  it means appropriating a memory as it flashes up in a moment of danger. historical materialism wishes to hold fast that image of the past which unexpectedly appears to the historical subject in a moment of danger. the danger threatens both the content of the tradition and those who inherit it.’ benjamin, on the concept of history

to interprete this in terms of the scope of my study means to understand the nature of praxis (action or politike ‘practical art or science’) as it expressed particularly in the role of the citizen architect and citizen artist. as aristotle puts it, politike aims at the highest good achievable by action (EN I.2, 1095a15). for him, all praxis is subsumed under the ‘political art’. however this is only as good as far as lt goes. having asserted that humans are political animals and distinguish themselves from other animals in this regard. aristotle concept of praxis needs to be extended further. in the sense that humans are not only conscious not only of themselves as individuals but as a species, that is, being is understood as socialised collective being and praxis (action, aristotle) as social praxis (social action, marx).  ‘Man is a species-being, not only because in practice and in theory he adopts the species (his own as well as those of other things) as his object, but – and this is only another way of expressing it – also because he treats himself as the actual, living species; because he treats himself as a universal and therefore a free being… In creating a world of objects by his personal activity, in his work upon inorganic nature, man proves himself a conscious species-being, i.e., as a being that treats the species as his own essential being, or that treats itself as a species-being.’ this conception of praxis brings together action (praktikē), theory (theoria) and production (poiesis).

what i am looking at in these neolithic landscapes is the origins of architecture or at least its (early) prehistory- the end of the nomadic architecture of organic materials, timber, animal bone and skin and the beginnings of a stone architecture of more fixed settlements. by the time the neolithic reaches our shores however we have seen an immense grown of stone monuments, thoughout europe, based in many cases directly on the predominant local house forms.  this was to lead to the establishment of early cities of the lavant and what is present day turkey, based around agriculture.

so my studies of these stone formations and their social and cultural praxis should provide the basis for some productive juxtapositions with my praxis based on the principle of montage construction. the photo-juxtapositions of 2014 was one such experiment. others perhaps more subliminal are based of the ability (explored in the text) of materials or materiality to hold meaning or memory or perhaps the memory of meaning. and how they might be carried from place to place and through time. examples from prehistory: cairnholy, dumfries and galloway. stonehenge, wiltshire.  present form: the granite and concrete subterranean house, st ives. concrete/stone installations at gloucester cathedral and elsewhere. transpositions of type and form. prehistory: west kennet long barrow, wlltshire. bryn celli ddu chambered tomb, anglesey. men-an-tol, west penwith. merry maidens and boscawen-un stone circles, west penwith. present form: subterranean house in st ives. holed stones constructions 2015-16. the merry maidens (stone circle) transposed, newlyn (drawing). round-house 2003-4/ 2016.
rex henry / June 23, 2014 / city, image-text, montage

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