Total History



The hand of fate

With the complexity of interdisciplinary tools employed for a larger space-time vision of the world, the Global Complexity Art wants to stand out from the superficiality of much post-modern aesthetics. To this purpose goes the attempt to create an artistic imagination of contemporary world trough a deeper perceptions and a more consistent anthropological profile of the past, with the objective to guaranty an essential continuity, not only in stylistic themes, with the history of visual arts applied on global scale. Using the parameters of Global Vision also in detecting the global history of visual arts, the Global Complexity Art finds its most suitable ally with the concept of Total History. This term was coined in the 30s by one of the masters of historical research, Fernand Braudel, who applied it to his new multidisciplinary approach to historical research, the Novelle Histoire; while more recently the concept of Total History has been reformulated in the practice of research by the Italian archaeologist Emmanuel Anati, who added the connotation of global space and the totality of human history. Of course, similarly to the global space, also the approach to global history implies a mental shift. Practically the research of global history requires a different outlook than used by traditional history. The first peculiarity of Total History appears in its little interest on ethnically or historically differences and its causes, to say emperors, kings, generals, religions and the infinite numbers of connected battles. Instead the main effort goes to detect common denominators and main streams of cultural patterns interconnecting events over time and space, dynamics which underlies the whole of cultures appeared on Earth since the existence of mankind, connecting beginnings and ends. Well go the words of Roger Caillois: “Every civilization appears as a part of a totality” because “a community of destiny embraces the entire humanity”; something that Teilhard de Chardin called “the great irreversible spiral of Live that rises, from age to age, following the mainline of evolution”.
Coming to speak about common denominators, by observing the whole of pre-modern cultures, to say ancient cultures and “traditional” cultures of our days, a first common pattern appears in the fact that the ancient and traditional art forms, always and everywhere, represent explicitly or implicitly the mythological-religious system of the respective ethnic group.  In other words, ahead the circumstantial motive of representation, the true subject of artistic creation is always the founding mythological pattern. More in detail has to be considered, first, that single mythological stories are segments of a whole which is the respective cosmological concept, the vision of the universe, really of high complexity and known only by initiated, in respect of which the artistic representation have to be understood as popular images of divulgation. Secondly, within the cosmological structures, essentially static, there is a dynamic component of greatest cultural importance that is the cosmogony, the story about the creation of the world. Of course, the idea of creation or procreation of the world implies the divine figure of the Creator, demiurge, great mother and/or great father, ancestors, hero, etc.. The myth of "creation" or "birth" of sky and earth, occupies an absolute central position because it is only trough this pattern that every traditional culture recognizes its particular significance in terms of ancestry, identity and relevance in the world. Therefore it should not be surprising that the creative act which gave birth to the world, the cosmogony, was everywhere reactivated in the rite of "fertilization-foundation" of any sacred space, as in the foundation of a city, temples or palaces, as in mere settlements, huts, etc.  Everywhere "human creation mimics the divine Creation,” pointed out the well-known historian of religions Mircea Eliade.  The relationship cosmos-society calls the old saying "down as above," which is reflected in the analogy between social hierarchies and celestial hierarchies, not the less than between the connected urban structures and the “holy mountain” of the planetary system, the reason why many old cities were called "mirror of the sky ". The same homology between cosmic creation and human creation is largely covered by the system of diagrams going under the concept of "Mandala", a pattern that the great Italian orientalist Giuseppe Tucci called "psycho-cosmogram". The Mandalas trace the spatial scheme used in above mentioned rites of foundation and following ground plans. The principle of Mandala, for Jung related to the “collective unconscious”, has been traced worldwide and since most ancient times; as in India still now there are governing the configuration of all traditional arts and buildings. One may consider also that the Mandala system is part of the ancient and universal conception regarding the analogical relation between the microcosm of the human body and the macrocosm, linked to the idea of a living universe, to which goes the specularity between human soul and the World soul, which is equally underling the Mandala. In this complex network of interactions is also to be found the logic of analogy between cosmic creation and human creation, so that Mircea Eliade could write that in the Ancient World  "human art imitates the art of God." This kind of concepts, which under varies formulations related to different cultures in different times, originated from archaic animism and terminated as leading idea only, but specifically, with the evolution of modern science from Galileo Galilei to Albert Einstein, with the mathematic formulation of a mechanical universe similar to a “great machine”, actually a “mechanical clock”. But also this leading configuration of modern science, partially in crises, has in the science of complexity a potentially different future. It is exactly the new concept of creation, with the laws of creative evolution discovered to be similar in natural cosmologic systems as in human cultural systems. In other words, the science of complexity rediscovered in new terms the ancient continuity between universal creativity of nature and human creativity, as explains the concept of General Evolution. The same scientific pattern, considered in terms of art, are projected in the expressions of the Global Complexity Art, along with its view towards a possible future and the re-evaluation of common denominators underlying the arts of the past. 

Speaking hands



Another particular aspect of Total History is that its investigation reaches back in time long before the development of "civilization" described by “written history”, to explore with equal attention the immense time laps of cultural evolution in territories inhabited by mankind during the First Age. With other words, the Total History includes, besides the history of civilisations, the cultural becoming of humanity during a period categorically discriminated as pre-history. Equally the Total History includes the relative continuity of First Age’s social and cultural patterns extended in archaic tribal communities, which, always fewer in number, have lived next to the great historical developments, discriminated as "primitive". A more correct definiscen wuold be "primary", which implies a different connotation of value in respect of the “secondary” evolution track, that of urban civilisation. In the view of Total History the ideological barrier between prehistory and history begins with the invention and diffusion of the social system based on the city-state, whose origin lies in Mesopotamia around 3.500 years BC with the foundation of the temple-city of Ur, dominated by the pyramidal construction of the great Ziggurat; an architecturally elaboration of the “sacred mountain” as perfect symbol of the new hierarchical structure of power destined to dominate the world. Afterward, with a mythical transliteration, this construction has been identified with the "Tower of Babel", built by the Asiro-Babylonians who where the direct heirs of the Sumerian culture. In terms of Total History the city-temple-state of Ur is a great common denominator of the world history.  It is the original model of the city-state system, a set which developed as a new social-cultural organism, at the same time urban organization of living and material structure of hierarchical power. It is exactly the history of evolution of this system that is the real subject of "history" defined as such. In fact Ur is the prototype of a city-state, which from the Latin word for "civitas" is the etymological origin of "civilization," born with the declared vocation of creating a "new world order", trough a growing in complexity and enlarging in space which ultimately is the "history of civilization." The present world order, as many common aspect of our daily life, have their origins in Ur. To give some short examples: at Ur was compiled the first systematic computation of time based on the sexagesimal system, the same we use practically everywhere, with twelve months a year, 2 times 12 hours a day, 60 minutes the hour and 60 seconds the minute; to the same concept goes the circle of 360°, not the less the systematic use of the wheel; from Ur came also Abraham, the common father of the three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Islam and the Judeo-Christian tradition of the West, besides the stately structures and metropolitan concentrations, deriving from the ancient city-state, that govern the whole planet. Coming back to consider Ur and its evolution trough city-state systems as the chronological border between history and prehistory, the first most visible aspect is the considerable imbalance existing between the two shores of time, with only 5,000 years of history compared to about 50.0000 years of the prehistory of our species. What is even more remarkable in our context relates to the fact that "written history" of civilization has its precursor in a “description” of prehistoric time transmitted by the great world heritage of works of art created by our “primitive” ancestors anywhere they lived. This is the most surprising aspect of primeval time, that its main heritage consists of objects and sites of highly artistically expression, that have lasted over thousands of years, not casually but because created manly on rocks, many protected by caves, or objects made of ivory, coming to form an immense archive of pictographic character that describes the history of prehistory. It is exactly the global documentation of this artistic heritage from which the Italian archaeologist Emmanuel Anati could draw his conclusions on Total History seen in a global prospective.  In his role as director of the Camunian Centre of Prehistory, from the headquarters in Valcamonica (Italy) he used to organize numerous international symposia among archaeologists, anthropologists and paleoanthropologists from around the world, besides his interaction with the World Archive of Rock Art on behalf of UNESCO. In this context, given by the development of technological means of communication and storage of digital documents from all over the world, where Anati was undoubted a leading central organizer, it become possible  for him to gain a global vision, finally appropriate, to trace a first approach to a Total History of the world.

Traces of becoming


The considered prehistoric time goes from Neolithic period back to the Upper Palaeolithic, starting about 45,000 years ago, with the first forms of art together with the first genetic appearance of our specimen, the homo sapience-sapience. The humanity of this first age lived in communities of hunter-gatherers, adapted to the cool weather o the Ice Age, dislocated in lands at the edges of the last Würm Glaciations.  With the raise of present Sun Age, which created great climatic changes with melting of ice and biblical floods, about 10,000 years ago ended the long lasting Ice Age, giving start to the New Stone Age as an adaption to the new climatic situation. The main event of this time segment is the “Neolithic revolution” with the invention of farming and breeding, creating a new social-cultural pattern which evolved over about 4-5 thousand years, creating the base for the grow of city-states signing the end of prehistory. This evolutionary step was first local than expanded in a long lasting contrast with primal cultures, as the not written part of history. 

By over viewing the remains from prehistoric times, a first stunning fact is that over 90% of the finds show expressions of visual art. The represented images are in part figurative and in part abstract symbols and diagrams. Taken together, those artistic findings represent, better than any historic annals, the coded illustration of their cultural worlds. To the more tempered New Stone Age belongs a large production of pottery art, plus megalithic sculpting and graphite made on rocks in the open air. While the arts of the Old Stone Age have been found mainly inside natural caves, dominated by the most fascinating animal paintings and reliefs, such as in the great cave of Altamura described as the "Sistine Chapel of prehistory"; together with micro-sculptures and engravings on boons and ivory, with the most beautiful female sculptures known as "Venus". But what appears as naturalistic figurations of animals and woman body, in reality is based on symbolic structures of high complexity, like the dominating binary system discovered by the great french paleoanthropologists André Leroi-Gourhan, or the evident use of the “golden proportions”, plus cosmologic connotation of the “holly mountain” connected to shamanic trances. Many are the aspects of primeval art expressions. From the more general view of Total History the most important aspect of the Upper Palaeolithic Ice Age is that the great manifestation and the expanding of visual arts during this period is synchronic with the birth and territorial diffusion of the present day’s human gender, the Cro-Magnon called also sapiens-sapiens. For the relative speed with which visual arts appeared and expanded on our planet, Anati speaks about an "explosion of art"; while the famous paleoanthropologist Richard E. Leakey, considering the cultural centrality of art in this period, defined the Upper Paleolithic as the "Age of Art". Thos aspects underline at best the deep ancestral connection existing between artistic creativity and anthropological identity of mankind. This facts testify that visual arts where originally a determinant factor in cultural humanizing of our most distant ancestors. Rather, we should speak about this founding artistic culture as the first "humanism" in the world. Equally important is to realize that this primary cultural layer of our species contains not only the common root of human creativity but is also the “mother culture” of all mankind. In this context, André Leroi-Gourhan described the Palaeolithic culture of art "the roots of the world." There remains only to point out the significance of promoting awareness of this common anthropological identity: since the Primal Age underlies all cultural divisions created trough history, it represents a common reference for the anthropological evolution of humanity towards a planetary society, composed of citizens of the world who feel united by a common origin, similarly to any ethic group.

Esay: Anthropology of human habitat
Per concludere si può ribadire che la Global Complexity Art si definisce neo-umanista anzitutto per il fatto di porre l'arte implicitamente in rapporto all'emancipazione umana. Non per dare una finalità all'arte che sia esterno alla sua natura, ma al contrario, per liberare la naturale creatività dell'uomo che sottende ugualmente all'arte, facendo leva su questa relazione di reciprocità. Oltre al fatto che l'immaginario creato nella dimensione globale, in quanto traduce una realtà comune ma non acquisita comunemente, mette in moto una potenziale elevazione di coscienza collettiva, insieme a quella di una nuova sensibilità caratterizzata da un più ampio raggio di empatia. Ciò che in vari ambiti si definisce "global shift", ossia una "svolta globale" per intraprendere il percorso evolutivo verso una coscienza planetaria. Parlando, invece, del più stretto legame tra umanesimo e arte,  il problema artistico a cui si vuole dare risposta -come già indicato da Beuys- è quello di creare "l'immagine dell'uomo", non il modello antropologico di una cultura in particolare, di un'epoca o di un settore sociale, ma l'icona dell'umanità intera, a sostegno, appunto, del percorso evolutivo verso una futura cultura globale. In tal senso la Global Complexity Art procede a comporre l'immagine dell'uomo inseguendo la sua metamorfosi nello spazio e nel tempo, per comporre un ologramma cronotopico che, per le sue interazioni globali, include tutto lo scibile.  Ovviamente è un'operazione complessa che richiede l'ampio spettro multidisciplinare indicato dal connubio arte-scienza. E' in questi termini, sia per l'obiettivo sia per il metodo, che la Global Complexity Art tende a riattualizzare l'antica impostazione umanistica che sottese alla fioritura rinascimentale del XV sec. 

Homo Schizophrenicus


A questo punto va chiarito che i ripetuti riferimenti alla multidisciplinarietà dell'Umanesimo rinascimentale è una scelta calibrata che si associa a uno sviluppo significativo avviato dalla Scienza della complessità, quella di coniugare cultura scientifica e cultura umanistica sotto l'emblema "scienza come arte". Si può dire che è in atto la tendenza a risaldare la storica separazione tra scienza ed arte che subentrò con la fine del Rinascimento. In effetti, la situazione fa pensare ai "corsi e ricorsi" teorizzati da G.B.Vico. Il fatto è che con la fine dell'Umanesimo rinascimentale, l'Europa fu l'epicentro di una epifania storica che, sul piano politico militare sospinse la colonizzazione del mondo intero, mentre sul piano scientifico culturale dette luogo ad una progressiva specializzazione settoriale delle discipline che, dopo un'evoluzione di circa 500 anni, è giunta all'apice della sua funzionalità. Questa è una convinzione diffusa, espressa sia da Beuys che da Prigogine, mentre da anni è stata dibattuta dal noto sociologo francese Edgar Morin, argomentando come la differenziazione sistematica delle conoscenze innestò un crescente suddivisione del saperi, parcellizzato in discipline sempre più specialistiche, per cui l'immagine del mondo e dell'uomo si è frastagliato nei tasselli d'un mosaico di cui nessuno è più in grado di vedere l'insieme. Si è perso il sapere del sapere. Dalla constatazione di questo stato di contraddizione tautologica si è sviluppata la tendenza di invertire il processo dissipativo, avviando un processo implosionale che sostituisce le divisioni disciplinari con approcci interdisciplinari propri alla cultura della complessità. A questo processo di  riconversione dell'organizzazione disciplinare s'innesta un altra inversione di rotta, per sopraggiunta saturazione, che riguarda la tematica complessa della progressiva distanza tra cultura e natura. In pratica l'avvento dell'universo meccanicistico inaugurato da Galileo Galilei e gradualmente sviluppato tramite Newton fino ad Einstein, aveva sancito la fine dell'antica cosmologia dell' "universo vivo" dando forma concettuale all' "universo macchina". Secondo il famoso biologo francese  Jaques Monod, in questo modello cosmologico la fenomenologia della Vita non ha una sua collocazione logica come tale, ma solo nella attraverso la sua riduzione omologata al modello universale della "macchina". Con una tale impostazione di fondo fu inevitabile il progressivo contrasto cultura-natura fomentato dall'evoluzione dalla civiltà industriale, le cui ripercussioni drammatiche coinvolgono ogni aspetto della vita, tanto nella natura ecologica quanto nella natura biologica e psicologica della vita umana. Anche in questo campo dominante, che è la cosmologia, la Scienza della complessità e in testa Ilya Prigogine, hanno provocato una "rottura epistemologica", un ribaltamento epocale che porta a spostare il baricentro concettuale dalla interpretazione meccanicistica del mondo a quella termodinamica che, avendo il calore della Terra origine nel sole, comprende chiaramente i parametri della vita terrestre. Deriva da questo ribaltamento anche una nuova relazione cultura-natura, ciò che uno scienziato come Prigogine ha sintetizzato nel titolo del suo libro "La nuova alleanza", con una visione del mondo indubbiamente neo-umanistica, indirizzata verso un rinnovato connubio di arte-scienza e cultura-natura.


This introduction summarizes the basic concepts of the Global Complexity Art, to which the following documents relate as a progressively more detailed illustration of what has been mentioned until now.