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Prehistoric Paradigms of 'Animalised' Art from Modernist Visions of Utopia to Post-History

Project description

Continuities of utopia in ancient, modern, and contemporary animal images

Recoiling from encroaching war and environmental destruction in the early 20th century, the artists of the historical avant-garde looked to the earlier cultures as exemplars of the peaceful coexistence of humans, animals, and nature. This fascination was reinforced by discovery of the Paleolithic cave paintings in Altamira in the late 1800s. The EU-funded PreAniMod project will investigate the relationship between avant-garde art, its prehistoric predecessors and today’s inheritors of this tradition in formal visual expression and philosophy. PreAniMod will open a dialogue between archaeology, Modernism, and contemporary art. In collaboration with the Arkeologisk Museum, University of Stavanger in Norway, the project will demonstrate how memory and imagination are as important as close observation in the representation of animal livingness and embodiment.


"The art of the early 20th Century in Europe was characterized by an intense interest in ""primitive"" cultures, and, not coincidentally, some of the first Paleolithic cave paintings (Altamira in 1868; Font-de-Gaume in 1901) had been discovered at the ""moment of Modernism."" Franz Marc wrote that the purpose of the „animalization“ of painting was to ""lead us back to the sources of art."" My project, in collaboration with the Arkeologisk Museum / UiS under the guidance of Dr Kristin Armstrong Oma, explores the relationship between avant-garde art, its prehistoric precursors, and contemporary inheritors to shed light on the image of the animal in the history of art and archaeology and to challenge anthropocentric assumptions underlying traditional research, demonstrating that memory and imagination are as crucial skills as close observation to represent the livingness and sentiency of animals. The prospect of bringing modernist art history and archaeology into conversation is a unique benefit of basing this project within the Museum's ""Animals Mediating the Real and Imaginary"" research initiative, as learning about archaeological is crucial to bringing my research alive. The door of hope is still ajar for humans to help save some of the earth's life forms. Can images change our actions as well as our aesthetics? Avant-garde artists were drawn to imagining a primitive utopia during a time of upheaval and crisis. This project includes an exhibition organised with Oslo's contemporary LOCUS gallery director Tanja Thorjussen, with public engagement and round-table discussions as well as conservation expeditions to the Alta cave site. A monograph and exhibition catalogue will document my research."


Net EU contribution
€ 214 158,72
4021 Stavanger

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Norge Vestlandet Rogaland
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 214 158,72