This archaeological term signifying something withouth being in itself significant (Roland Barthes). The title of this photographic work is to refer to the archaeological object as well as to the photographer’s intention – the search for evidence on location.
A search for vestiges which is anything but sensational, since it is not spectacular archaeological excavations but landscapes that are visited. The scrupulous search for traces which have been preserved in a landscape that is shaped and conditioned almost completely by commercial utilization (agriculture, forestry, urban sprawl). This search is by no means a scientific one; it is rather a pursuit of a vague attraction by long-forgotten plain places. These neglected areas shaped by people have remained unnoticed over the centuries . Although situated in the countryside, they have not yet been assimilated by nature again.
The onset of excavation archaeology started a fascination with Homer among the middle classes. Those ethnic groups that are only just beginning to gain public recognition, that can even be said to be esoterically trendy, used to be not beautiful enough, not good enough, not true enough over a long period of time (Winckelmann). Idealized classical antiquity distorted and blurred the perception of artefacts which appeared pallid and abstract; schemes of thought and religious beliefs that often do not fit into the fabricated occidental culture. But what appears to be a non-classical alternative cannot escape a correlation to the recent past. The Celts, for example, have been the centre of a huge web of myths which rendered their contemporaries, the ancient Germanic tribes, quite unpopular.
With the knowledge that death is an essential part of life all human cultures worship the creative process. Exactly this creative process has yet to be defined and remains uncertain. We still adhere to a creed that extenuates the horror of our impermanence with the promise of life after death. It is fatal, however, to insert today’s value judgements into the unexplored world of prehistoric peoples’ feelings and emotions. We would place ancestors into the tradition of our thinking. Places of ritual worship such as the menhires and other cult monuments refuse to yield their meaning. It is often unknown why and for what purpose they were built. If we want to say something about them we have to resort to interpretation because reading and understanding them is not always possible. The interpretation of artefacts gives rise to new myths. Thus we modern humans are following in our forefathers’ footsteps using mythology since the incomprehensible, the inexplicable in human life calls for consolatory or outrageous stories to provide some form of explanation.
It may well be that Christian culture is plagued by a kind of schizophrenia. During its rise, Christianity depended on the ancient cult places of worship in Central Europe. These places could not be demolished – they were too deeply rooted in popular belief. Christianity’s strategy was to assimilate, to transform, and to occupy.
We explore and interpret our world; ancient illiterate cultures observed theirs. When lightning strikess we are sure that this is caused by a clash of clouds whereas our pre-rational ancestors thought that clouds collide so that lightning could occur.
Thus occurences do not acquire a meaning because they happen but they happen because they carry a meaning. Is this loss of a symbolic mode of perception related to today’s interchangeable language of signs and symbols?
Celtic priesthood banned the use of written texts in religious ceremonies. Representations and names of deities were insignificant. Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image… (Exodus 20, 4-5) is not an exclusively Christian commandment. To prehistoric cultures, mother nature provided the temple they needed.
Whatever we may imagine, the cults and rituals will not be revealed to us. We will have to accept irrepresentability and incommensurability. These lines are meant as motivation for accepting the few known facts instead of attempting to speculate in a romantic fashion.
To variegate a quote by Roland Barthes: Photography is a means of exploring time’s testimony.