Subconscious content in Pippa Skotnes’ San window adds to UCT art politics ironies

Artworks and art galleries rarely become a public socio-political battleground, as in the 2016 -2017 University of Cape Town (UCT) student bonfire, and the censorship attempt. Subconscious content in Pippa Skotnes’ San-styled window, adds to the ironies.

UCT removed, covered, draped and otherwise sacrificed some artworks to the fickle causes of transformation in education. Several ironies in this South African art debacle, offer rich data for academic culture clash debates in social anthropology.

Archetypal structural analysis of some of the banned artworks, and of some of those remaining on the walls, confirm my evidence in Mindprint (2014), and in Stoneprint (2016), that all recognised artworks worldwide subconsciously express the same core content, as a kind of visual grammar, or cultural DNA. Only styling, and apparent conscious intention, allows socio-political claims to culture. The core content offers an objective lexicon of meaning against which many human scientific terms, and even the subject and science of semiotics could be defined (See Furter on semiotics as the natural structure of meaning, in Expression 16).

Polities want to link their leaders to some recognisable symbols, to appropriate an identity (see Endicott and Welsch 2005: Taking sides). Cultural identity is invariably linked to aspirational values, such as ‘old, pure, rich, complex, open, sustainable’; while underdogs demonstrate their suffering (such as struggle theology), continuing well after gaining freedom and prosperity. Student leaders found little to appropriate in the remnant cultural record of colonialism, Western democracy, and attempted idealisation of rural life. De-colonised people worldwide demand the lie of former utopias from ‘their’ arts; while arts demand of ‘their’ sciences to legitimise cultural kitsch (Endicott 2005, citing Turner vs Hagen; Clifford vs Dutton). The streets and galleries of Paris, London, and west and east Berlin, once reflected the same identity struggles against status quo burdens, each wave of re-styling leaving its own stylistic burdens on the visual and architectural fabric. Among the worse of these burdens, by almost any measures, are the populist revolutionary and communist burdens in art and culture in formerly communist countries.

Archetypal analysis escapes socio-political relativism by revealing the subconscious, compulsive, typological and spatial and framework of visual and architectural expression, that is not taught or learned anywhere, and that all artists worldwide, in all ages, follow unawares, in great detail.

The Smuts House San window of breezy bags

Pippa Skotnes designed some of the Smuts House ‘rose’ windows at UCT, with contemporary democratic, and some indigenous themes and styling, to counter-balance the Euro-centric cathedral medium, and heraldic styling of the colonial era windows. In a similar programme at Wits University, Cyril Coetzee painted a 9-metre canvas titled T’Kama Adamastor, a visual narrative of Andre P Brink’s parody of colonial views, showing the arrival of Portuguese ships, soldiers, priests, traders and cosmogony, through Khoekoen eyes, but in Renaissance styling (Vladislavic 1997). Archetypal analysis of the Coetzee canvas (Furter 2014: Mindprint, p128 -129) reveals a tripled expression of the universal subconscious structure. For comparison, the same kind of multiple ‘geared’ mindprint was demonstrated in Egyptian Naqada designs (Mindprint p 126); in several Ice Age (p150-151 etc); African, and American (p140 -141) rock art works; and in a Smuts era political art cornice in the Pretoria old town council chamber (p159), where incidentally some of the regular type 11 wombs (literally) are of Voortrekker women, and some of black servant women.

Archetypal analysis of another artwork by prof Pippa Skotnes, ‘Down here a starless sky’ (Mindprint p209), confirmed that learned artists express subconscious structure to the same average of detail as novice artists, and as rock artist. And despite great learning in iconography and the rest of the art history curricula, including alchemy in the case of Coetzee, schooled artists likewise did not know of the existence, or any comprehensive details of the five layers of mindprint (author’s conversations and correspondence with Coetzee, Skotnes, Eljana van der Merwe, and several other artists).

Whether an artist develops an individual style or programme; or designs for a broad market or for a commission; or mimics a recognised style (such as pseudo-San art by Oscar Stoppforth, by Walter Battiss, by Pippa Skotnes in the window discussed here; or pseudo-Egyptian art by modern artists; or pseudo-Dali styling as by Michael Yakono), the resulting designs are almost indistinguishable from ‘original’ ethnic artists, and differ only in their media, textures, techniques, and provenience.

This article offers the standard format caption of the characters, in their standard peripheral typology sequence, with the archetypal features they express, the polar markers, the cultural Age. Then follows a note on the general theme; and some comments on the ironies in ‘us and them’ culture debates; and a ‘blank’ version of the standard archetypal analysis caption (updated in May 2017 by extending the number of identified typological features, from a recently extended database).

On three related websites, visitors may compare archetypal analysis of the Skotnes San window in this article, with ‘real’ San and other artworks.

Pippa Skotnes: Wind in Kabbo’s window, UCT, Smuts House window. Stoneprint labels, and axial grid, with archetypal analysis by Edmond Furter.

The sequence of archetypes in the Smuts House San-styled window, Wind in Kabbo’s window, by Pippa Skotnes, is:

Type /analogous season; Character (noting archetypal features):

1 Builder /Taurus; Antelope? (bovid) obscured by the frame, part of a ‘bag’ of seven animals (cluster).

2 Builder /Taurus; Antelope? (bovid, part of a ‘bag’ of seven animals (cluster); and a large antelope (bovid) in twisted posture (twisted).

2c Basket; Swift-person or swallow-person (more typical of 1 /2), or bag stitches (container, woven texture).

3 Queen /Aries; Horse (long or bent neck); calabash ‘head’ (long or bent neck); and on a closely adjacent axis is the large antelope with bent neck (long or bent neck, sacrifice). These three characters are on two axes, opposite the two eyes of a geometric character at 10, which also has a bent neck (typical of sacrifice in symbolism worldwide).

4 King /Pisces; Wagon profile (rectangular, not counted here since the work includes four wagons and a house); two occupants (twins, not counted here since four wagons have two occupants each), perhaps a ruler (king).

4p Galactic South Pole; Jaw (limb joint) of a leopard (varicoloured, typical of 5).

5a Priest /Aquarius; Farmer with a gun (hyperactive).

5b Priest /Aquarius; Status character in a wagon (priest?).

5c Basket Tail; Basket? (weave).

6 Exile /Capricornus; ‘Eye’ of a bag, visible in high resolution images.

7 Child /Sagittarius; Schematic geometric person (unfolding) in a formling (unfolding).

8 Healer /Scorpius; Spiral engraving on a boulder (pillar).

9 Healer /Scorpius; Sun engraving on a boulder (pillar).

9c Basket Lid; Nested V-shape cross engraving (textured).

10 Teacher /Libra; Two ‘eyes’ of an L-shaped formling.

11 Womb /Virgo; Reptile-shaped bag ‘womb’ (interior, mother).

12 Heart /Leo; Gunman (weapon, death, war) in a house (interior), front rounded (rounded, bastion).

13 Heart /Leo; Driver (weapon) in a wagon (interior).

14 Mixer /Cancer; Animal near the centre (ingress /egress).

15 Maker /Gemini; Master (order, smiting).

15g Galactic Gate; Net (rope of adjacent 15, sometimes a grid shape, as in some Zimbabwean works, and in the Coricancha gold plate mural in Peru).

Axial centre; Bag tassel (juncture).

Midsummer; Another tassel (juncture).

Midwinter; Another tassel (juncture). The solstice axle is on axis 13 or Leo, placing spring and the cultural time-frame in Age Taurus2, typical of most works made in Age Aries (framed by the foregoing Age), and of alchemical works in all ages.

General themes in this stained glass window include type 11 Womb, typical of gestation and interiors; and type 15 Maker, typical of bags (see the four large bags in the central design, and compare to bags or huts on Gobekli Tepe pillar D43), ropes, re-creation, social order, and appropriation.

All five layers of structuralist expression are subconscious to artists, architects, builders and members of all cultures. The conscious and symbolic themes here include transparency, inspiration, conservation, nature-culture balance, spirituality, and the value of minorities, as part of a commission to broaden the iconographic scope of the visual and historic texture of the university by including indigenous styling.

The analysis score [see an expanded scoring formula in later posts] is 28/70 features, 20/20 axial points, 4/5 polar markers, 0/2 planar or cardinal orientations, 3/3 thematic features; total 55/100, minus 5 extra characters off the axial grid; total 50%, in the lower average range of the global average sigma variation from 40% to 80%. More study of the San ethnography from which Skotnes drew some of the images, and the assumed narrative, and of the conventions that she adopted, could change the score.

Tyhpological labels and features

In any artwork, or on any building site map, containing eleven or more characters, rooms, or buildings; cut and paste these labels to identify characters and structural points. Pairs of opposites are given above-and-below one another. Some pairs may remain unused (often 2c, 5c, 9c, 13c; or 1v8, or 12v5a):

1Build 2Build 2cBaskt 3Queen 4King 4p
8Heal 9Heal 9cLid 10Teach 11Womb 11p

 

5aPriest 5bPriest 5cTail 6Exile 7Child 7g
12Heart 13Heart 13cHead 14Mix 15Make 15g

 

cp csp ? ? ?

 

Labelling and identification of the axial grid, always support one another. Test for pairs of opposite eyes until a centre point emerges, then identify the heart or inner ‘eye’, and womb or unborn eye, which always express type 12 or 13 Heart, and type 11 Womb.

The mindprint ,model of structuralist anthropology lists the sixteen archetypes, and eight intervening points, and five polar points, by way of about 75 known recurrent features, each with its own average frequency of occurrence [UPDATE; the list of known features and frequencies was expanded by additional data in 2018, see Stoneprint Journal 5. Here is the 2017 list];

Type label; features with their global average frequencies:

1 /2 Builder; twisted 48%, tower 22%, bovid 19%, cluster 14%, pit 13%, bird 10%, book 6%).

2c Basket; secret 17%, container 13%, woven texture 13%).

3 Queen; long or bent neck 37%, dragon 14%, sacrifice 13%, school 11%, empress 9%, pool 9%, spring 6%, equid).

4 King; squatting 25%, rectangular 20%, twins 11%, king 9%, bird 6%, field 6%, furnace).

4p Galactic South Pole; (marked 65%, limb joint 50%, juncture, spout 13%).

5a/5b Priest; assembly 30%, varicoloured 30%, hyperactive 30%, horizontal 30%, priest 15%, water 15%, %, tailcoat head, heart of 12, inverted of 12.

5c Basket Tail; (attributes not yet isolated).

6 Exile; egress /ingress 48%, sacrifice 13%, small 13%, U-shaped 11%, tree, volute, reptile, amphibian, horned, double-headed).

7 Child; unfolding 17%, bag 13%, rope 12%, juvenile 10%, chariot 8%).

7g Galactic Centre: (gate, water 15%).

8/9 Healer; pillar 50%, bent forward 30%, healer 11%, strength 9%, ritual).

9c Basket Lid; revelation 15%, law enforcement 9%, disc, snake).

10 Teacher; arms V/W-posture 50%, staff 17%, council 17%, guard 15%, market 8%, metallurgy 8%, crown /disc /wheel 10%, school 8%, canine, hunt master, ecology).

11 Womb; womb /interior 87%, mother 60%, tomb 13%, water 11%, library 11%, wheat 6%, law 6%).

11p Galactic Pole: (marked 81%, limb joint 68%, juncture).

12/13 Heart; heart /chest /interior 85%, feline 20%, death 33%, water-work 30%, rounded 26%, bastion 22%, war 17%, weapon 13%, palace 11%, inverted).

13c Basket Head; prediction 11%, texture 6%,

14 Mixer; ingress /egress 50%, bird 10%, tree 6%, canid,

15 Maker; rope 30%, order 25%, bag 10%, face 10%, doubled 10%, pool 8%, canine 8%, creation, churn, sceptre, mace, rampant,

15g Galactic Gate; (gate 20%, river 6%).

Axial centre; (limb joint 26%).

Midsummer; (limb joint 50%).

Midwinter; (limb joint 37%).

The solstices axle or summer-winter orientation, implies the spring point between them, thus setting the cultural time-frame in Age Taurus1, Age Taurus2, Age Aries, or Age Pisces. This time-frame is usually the Age or transitional era before the work.

The vertical or horizontal plane (or cardinal direction on building sites) may confirm one of the polar axles.

The general theme is revealed by the presence of typology features in their usual place, as well as attached to some of the other types. All five layers of structural expression are subconscious to artists, architects, builders and members of any culture.

The analysis could be scored as __/70 attributes, __/20 axial points, _/5 polar markers, _/2 planar or cardinal orientations, _/3 thematic features; total __/100, minus __ extra characters off the axial grid; total __%, usually in a sigma curve variation from 40% to 80%. [Update; The data formula changed slightly in 2018, and changed again in 2019, as new recurrent features of subconscious behaviour were revealed and added to analyses].

Ironies in art censorship

Several ironies are raised by the UCT banning or denouncement of the pseudo-San styled Smuts House window by Pippa Skotnes. Visual censorship could be labelled blank-facing, after the Johnny Clegg song ‘Hasiem Bonanga’ (I may not see his face), about the former censoring of photographs of Nelson Mandela. The ironies include:

  • Smuts was an active campaigner for finding and curating indigenous history and culture (as in the Mapungubwe saga), however patronising the initiative turned out to be in practice. Mob rule over the arts, as in the French, British and Russian Revolutions, and now in the education revolution, are strong versions of patronising, or acculturation (ironically largely to a blank wall that could be labelled ‘under development’ or ‘watch this space’), by enforcing ‘kangaroo court’ decisions on public art and thus on the cultural record.
  • Remaining San artists are few (see Khoe tapestries at Wits University’s Origins Centre, which each express a slightly flawed mindprint, perhaps due to some elements of collaboration and cumulation in the process).
  • Skotnes understood San spirituality as well as any artist of any colour, or as any UCT student. The contribution of informants to the study of self-acclaimed ‘ethic’ art is typically small (see Keesing v Trask, in Endicott 2005).
  • Students removed and burned some UCT artworks, notably a kind of ‘instamatic’ coloured drawing of themselves clambering over the podium where they had removed the Rhodes equestrian statue; thus censoring a full frontal ‘snapshot’ of their own mob rule. Perhaps some students were offended by the deft way in which the artist captured mob ethic, probably including individuals recognisable by their clothing or antics. That artwork probably also expressed mindprint.
  • The instinct of revolutionary students that the education system is too expensive, as in the Fees Must Fall slogan, is correct (due in part to the artificial cost of big name artworks and installations). But their instinct that art and science should serve ‘the people’ (that is, their new elite), is fatally flawed, to the dire detriment of art, science and their own cu-lture. Senior archaeology students and curators in Zimbabwe, who grew up in the Mugabe regime, express the same sentiment about museums and sites like Great Zimbabwe (see an archetypal site analysis of Great Zimbabwe, and the Queen’s Kraal, on stoneprint.wordpress.com, and on Academia.edu).
  • The UCT arts committee in its collective institutional wisdom, by applying censorship, implied that it understood the artworks on their campus; and udnerstood the motivations for displaying art; and that education should serve the emerging and semi-educated elite. These assumptions are not substantiated in any statement, least of all in the public relations drivel of the time, stuffed with attempted political correctness.
  • The main irony, still largely unknown to artists, academics, investors, and the public, is that all complex artworks (containing eleven or more characters in proximity), worldwide, are equally therapeutic, expressive, subconsciously recognisable, and capable of abuse (as colonial powers abused iconography), and equally capable of appropriating cultural and spiritual resources. In an earlier era of culture clash, herders painted crude white stick figures over inspired and proficient San art panels.
  • UCT anti-colonial revolutionaries did not offer alternatives to the supposedly offensive and colonial works (which I for one would have welcomed, as in my much earlier request to a private gallery in Pretoria to call for tenders to replace a certain pseudo-‘African’ mosaic by a big-name European artist).
  • Few artworks are irreplaceable and invaluable (as Ice Age Cave art is invaluable, and as Gobekli Tepe engravings are, since they are very rare, very old, and integrated into their canvases and cultures; from a time when there were too few people to sustain mob rule. As early Sumerian seals are invaluable, because they add visual meaning to poorly understood texts, and indicate the extent of cultural creolisation between Mesopotamia en India). What went up in flames, and disappeared into vaults at UCT, is not priceless, and mostly over-priced. I propose more slogans; ‘Demand for Big Name art must fall. Supply must increase’.
  • Most of the objectionably Euro-centric art risk of theft, vandalism, or both, are already in vaults all over Africa. A visit to the Johannesburg Art Gallery in Joubert Park is a depressing experience.
  • The UCT art committee had argued for a neutral space for art debate. Ironically, it is doubtful that more than one or two UCT art students per year are destined to fill the void left by art theft, student mob rule, political thuggery, and academic cultural ineptitude. Yet the attempt to discuss art, culture, identity and spirituality coherently in public view, in an era of rapid socio-economic change and migration, is welcome, and overdue. Here is my contribution; ‘Conscious concept art must fall. Study of subconscious expression must rise’.
  • I remain optimistic that a blank wall or two could light a few expressive sparks, not thanks to, but despite the cross-purposes of the arts committee and the party-dependent and party-serving arts committee.

-Edmond Furter, Johannesburg, South Africa, April 2017. Amended April 2019.

See more art analysis examples, and peyote, ayahuasca, mushroom and calendric art on www.mindprintart.wordpress.com

Comments are welcome in the Comment window below.

See articles on structural art and building analysis in the anthropology journal Expression, editions 9, 10, 13, 14 and 15, on http://www.atelier-etno.it/e-journal-expression/

Some of these articles are also posted on www.academia.com

See an article on Ice Age and Gobekli Tepe art in another post.

Order the book Mindprint, by Edmond Furter (2014), with 200 art and rock art demonstrations, including critiques of cognitive archaeology and art history, and an index of 400 tested artworks, from www.Lulu.com

or in South Africa from edmondfurter at gmail dot com.

Order the book Stoneprint, by Edmond Furter (2016), with 130 illustrations, including 40 building site maps, and a critique of the implications for relevant sciences and cultural crafts; at $30 plus postage (or in South Africa, R250 plus postage), by Paypal and via email from Edmondfurter at gmail dot com.

Sources and References

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Furter, E. 2014 More examples of structural art analysis. www.mindprintart.wordpress.com
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Furter, E. 2015 Mindprint in San Francisco public art, and other examples; www.mindprintart.wordpress.com
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