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Heidegger, heterotopic dwelling and prehistoric art : an initial indication of a field of research

Tonner, Philip (2018) Heidegger, heterotopic dwelling and prehistoric art : an initial indication of a field of research. Religions, 9 (12). ISSN 2077-1444

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Abstract

This paper begins to develop an interpretation of European cave art based on Martin Heidegger’s account of artistic production and ‘dwelling’ so as to indicate a potentially rich area for future research. The paper will also draw on Foucault’s account of heterotopic space and will engage with one of the key researchers on the archaeology of cave art, Randall White. The role of a work of art for Heidegger is to hold open a world. Art enables a decision to be made by a group regarding how things are going to matter for, and to, them as dwellers in their world. Works of art, on Heidegger’s account, put up for decision what will count as the highest values (the gods) for a group while determining what will prove essential for human dwelling in a world. With reference to Foucault, it will be suggested that caves are a good candidate for a heterotopic space. Caves are uncanny, numinous spaces and because of this, I suggest, they enable human beings to produce art as a world-opening event. I suggest that there is something significant about human experience in caves and I attempt to make a connection between heterotopic space, dwelling, and the art of the last Ice Age in Europe in order to point towards a novel field of research: dwelling and prehistoric art.