Thursday, April 21, 2011

Imagination And Art In The Cave Of Forgotten Dreams

Filmmaker Werner Herzog got a once in a lifetime opportunity to enter the Chauvet caves in France which has some exquisitely preserved rock paintings, dated to about 30 thousand years ago. He made a 3D movie of the interior of the cave.

On Fresh Air he talks about his experience:

GROSS: And they wanted you to keep on the walk so that you didn't contaminate the rest of the cave, yeah.

Mr. HERZOG: Oh, you never - can never touch anything. It's not just contaminating. There are footprints, fairly fresh footprints. You do not want to superimpose your print of your hiking boot upon it. There's...

GROSS: Oh, over the cave-bear print. Yeah. 

(Soundbite of laughter) 

Mr. HERZOG: Yes, you just don't do this. And there's a footprint of a child, maybe eight-year-old, this very mysterious. We couldn't film it. We were not allowed, because it was deep in the recess of the cave.

The mysterious thing is that next to this footprint, probably a boy, probably around eight years old, parallel to it runs the footprint of a wolf. And I was very, very puzzled: Did the wolf stalk the boy? Or did they walk together as friends? Or did the wolf leave its footprints 5,000 years later? It's stunning. The lapse of time is completely and utterly stunning.
What a context for an artist to let loose his imagination! The Cave of Forgotten Dreams indeed.. but also the Cave of Infinite Imagination.

Werner Herzog also recently joined physicist Lawrence Krauss and author Cormac McCarthy in a conversation about how science and art inspire each other. Speaking about the differences between art and science Krauss remarks:

Science is imagination in a straitjacket.

Not quite so for the artists in the Cave Of Forgotten Dreams.

Listen / Transcript

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