Extracts from the book “ Une futile audace “ (translation from French)
From the cosmos to atomic particles to biology, decomposition and reorganisation are uninterrupted, and the entire history of humanity recounts our wonder and fear, battles and acceptance, cleverness and clumsiness, when confronted with this current that carries us along. So, the knapping of the most ordinary material – stone - sends us back to the founding violence of all creation. The precision and variety of the minute points of contact necessary for such shaping of stone, revealed today through scientific imaging, commands our admiration for the subtlety of skills, gestures and aesthetic sense that our precursors deployed to create such results. A few thousand years later, perforation and flaking techniques are invented, and with them premeditation of the traumatism announcing the fracture: how to accept that the mutilation of unity and harmony can also be the announcement of reorganisation, of another structure, another state ? Time is here altered by the tool which accelerates the dispersion and by the cable which slows it : this is the moment of the death of the cobble, as an entity that is given to us to contemplate. Here, indeed, remains the law itself of all that is ephemeral : one need no longer hope or believe, it is enough to accept, as the cables invite us to do.
Wide, open, the river splits the volcano that discharges its waters and ejects its dismantled rocks. In perpetual movement, they are transported like tranquil men, feet in the current. So many souls likely circulate here, slowly and yet unceasingly advancing, disenchanted people of stone, recently extinct although quite prolific not long ago. This march toward the ocean waters lays waste to any signs engraved by man and man himself is also included within the era of the ephemeral. What we know of the most ancient periods of our species evokes such restless wandering, as much in time and space as in inventions. Material evidence reconstructs this boldness, from the stone to the spear, from the habitat to the hearth, from burials to art, extending through millions of years. They are precious to us because they are fragile and hidden, and yet the spirit breaks through, by these “anomalies” marked by man in the forests and mountains. Such remains sum up and revitalise the profound nature of human destiny : evanescent as to their origins, random as to their destiny. Better than making us understand, these works in nature make us feel, in a dazzling summary, the maximum to which we can claim in durability.
Human thought is not revealed only by lucidity and reasoning. A large part of it is associated with sensitivity and emotion : it seeks no practical rationale, only a source of aesthetic satisfaction. Among our countless inventions, new forms appear with man that construct an inventory of frozen traces, articulated and structured. The sign is a relay, a “symbol”, between the moment of its conception and the time that followed. It thus has embedded meaning, originally as successes, which may be many. The play of signs is not limited to their contour, but includes material, support and size. A semiotic is constructed, then, based on the organisation, either in relation to other signs or to specific contexts where they are placed. The original meaning does not matter, if there had ever been one ; we come closer to a meaning induced, constructed, maintained, reconstructed and that our own view injects. So, the primitive image reproduces nothing, it only produces : thought, myths, the sacred. And so we perceive in it the invisible.
Archaeologically, the human species is characterised less by the acquisition of bipedalism – chickens also walk on two feet – than by the evidence produced by the refusal of his condition: we recognise as ancestors those who acted on material in order to go beyond their anatomical limitations. Three million years ago, worked cobbles symbolise this much desired break with nature, and which made us the unique beings that we wanted to be. These rudimentary tools indicate that there was, consciously or not, a refusal to accept the place in nature determined by biology : an evolved primate transforms material to his needs and endows it, through cleverness, with a power inaccessible to his own body. This rough knapping contains, via its utilitarian aspect, an initial and radical profession of metaphysical faith : I will not remain as I am, I will not content myself with the place from which I perceive the world. Worked cobbles were the depositories and the expression of a desire. This was certainly a technological invention, but also a work of art. In this sense it again acts on us with as much power: materialising a challenge against the order of the universe, from its origin it contains much more than the ability to make a gesture in response to a functional concern.
Linking mind to action and action to the material evidence that action leaves behind, no gesture is random, but rather capable of revealing intention, planning, estimation. Only our retrospective view (itself creative) can reconstruct a complete evolution of these stages of “progress” by putting them in order one after another. It is, however, the conviction of a trajectory, real or imaginary, individual or collective, that creates our uniqueness over several million years. We, like many others before us, feel we are living in a period of upheaval. As the last direct witnesses of Palaeolithic civilisations and places where man left no trace of his presence, we are fascinated both by contemplation of what has disappeared and by the unveiling of what did appear. Resolutely useless gestures, to break, repair or clothe stones, have no other impact, but are illusory homage to a world in agony and active participation in the promised change. A symbolic image, effective only by our viewing, the evidence left recalls that every action certainly portrays boldness quite futile faced with perpetuity: what remains, however, is the elegance of the gesture of attempting to lend a dash of style and nobility to the inevitable disappearance of everything.