LIFE OF BONE
Wall of skulls, a large collection of skull watercolours, was installed at the Wits Origins Centre in 2011 as part of the group exhibition Life of bone: art meets science. The project (exhibition and book) reflected the numerous engagements amongst a small group of artists and fellow academics, for whom bones, far from being simply a dour reminder of the inevitability of death, are repositories of the life that was; evidence of life even if that life is no longer. Bones have the potential to draw to themselves all manner of meaning—we can connect with them as immediate kin, regard them as the evidence of the death of one’s foe, as the remnants of the violations of a genocide, as the continued presence of one’s ancestors, or part of an evolutionary puzzle. These meanings are multiple: personal, political, social, spiritual and scientific to name but a few.
Central to the Life of bone exhibition was the presence of three skulls – that of the Taung child, the fragments from Border cave and a modern chimpanzee skull, and the work of three artists – myself, Gerhard Marx and Karel Nel – who engage in a variety of ways with the thoughts which bones engender about death and life, about the past, the present and the future.
Dennis Dutton, the philosopher, argues that art-making is an evolutionary development and that humans are driven by the desire to record experiences in the service of being able to understand themselves and the world. The forms that representations take may be visual, narrative or scientific, but all are driven by the same desire, the need to understand our place in the world