In the images [the paintings of the Chauvet cave in southern France] this prehistoric people have bequeathed to us, we get a glimpse of something like a shared humanity, but we also gaze into a stranger part of ourselves, something reaching to the depths. Since we do not know the context in which the paintings were made, we cannot in good faith chalk them up to some clear pragmatic end. We are seeing art in its naked state, deprived of any discernible appropriation. This can trouble our secular sensibilities since it confronts us not just with the mysteries of nature, but more strikingly still with the riddle of the presence of such things as us in the otherwise coherent physical world. Given the fact that the molecular chemistry that makes life possible is the same throughout the cosmos, would finding works of art on Mars or a remote planet be any more uncanny than finding them here on Earth?
J.F. Martel in Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice: A Treatise, Critique, and Call to Action
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