13 November 2010

Day 7 - Into the Void

Today it is bucketing down with rain. The continent has reverted to its primordial state; crawling with arachnids, mosquitoes with wet-gauze wings hum, moths beat at the windows to get in. It's like Gondwanaland, overgrown and green.
Will you let me cheat today and read instead my reviews of some shows for Next Wave 2010?
Failing that, I think you all should see (if you are in Melbourne) this show at Linden Gallery.

Into the Void: The Antarctic Kingdom of Gondwanaland
Wanda Gillespie

Rising temperatures have seen the unprecedented erosion of age-old ice along a mountain chain on the northern coast of Queen Maud Land, Antarctica revealing an archaeological treasure trove. Remnants from an instinct culture have been excavated and are now being reviewed and carbon dated by researchers at the Museum of London. The painstakingly crafted objects recovered from three initial archaeological missions suggest the culture may have been a precursor to such modern-day indigenous cultures of the South Pacific as Maori, Aboriginal Australian, Polynesian and East Indonesian. The uncovered objects can be viewed as the so-called ‘grandmother’ of present tribal art and share similarites in design motifs. Speculation abounds that this ancient culture may have developed simultaneously, yet independently of the dominant ancient civilizations in Sumeria and Egypt, and flourished on the lands of the southern super continent, Gondwanaland.

ceremonial swing, recovered from Queen Maud Land earlier this year
reassembled for Into the Void (by Wanda Gillespie)

The latest findings are beginning to challenge the belief that Antarctica has been under ice for a million years. The discovery of the controversial Piri Reis map in 1929 – a 500 hundred year old map which detailed the northern Antarctic coast from under the existing ice, was the first clue to this scientific inaccuracy. Geological evidence confirms that the latest date Queen Maud Land could have been charted in an ice-free state is 4000 BCE, raising questions about the map’s origins and established scientific ‘truths’ about Antarctica’s ice age.
It is believed that the oncoming ice age, with a revised date around 3500 BCE, played a tragic hand in eradicating this ancient culture. The majority of people, possibly the lower rungs of the society, (be it agrarian workers) are assumed to have fled the areas of Queen Maud Land prior to a major freeze. The relics, collected and reassembled here, are attributed to a reigning religious class; they enact a spiritual drama of perhaps both fear of the impending end and the desire for transcendence. Rudimentary skis were among the icy findings at the site. The nature of the design and the amassing of these objects at specific locations hint that these were produced for a ritual purpose rather than everyday transport. The position of their discovery, at a significant elevation, on the 70th parallel closest to South America, is crucial to the idea that the remaining inhabitants chose to propel themselves away from the earth that had betrayed them. A swing-like structure, again ritualistic in design, stood on the precipice of this chosen site facing a panorama of limitless sky. The standing hypothesis is that this was used as a device by the faithful to swing into the void of heaven and thus cross through the fabric of time and space, that is to say, cross the threshold of reality. Scholars have drawn links between the apparent voluntary suicide of these ancients and the doomsday cults of today. Further excavation at strategic points below the mountain will perhaps shed light on the fate of these lost peoples and whether they indeed experience a final transcendence. As temperatures rise, these initial objects may be the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, of what is to come.

written by Varia Karipoff for Wanda Gillespie