Transmission in Motion


“Dancing the Cave” – Gido Broers

Before discussing the movement in cave art, I will address briefly movement in another art form, namely dance:

“In watching a collective dance – say, artistically successful ballet – one does not see people running around; one sees the dance driving this way, drawn that way, gathering here, spreading there – fleeing, resting, rising, and so forth; and all the motion seems to spring from powers beyond the performers.” Susanne Langer

What this quote by Susanne Langer from her book Feeling and Form: A Theory of Art (1953) beautifully expresses is that we do not perceive movement as bodies that are moving but as something that goes beyond those moving bodies, something untouchable. According to me, this power that goes beyond the body relates to the movement as is being transmitted through cave art. This cave art, as being explained in the seminar by Nicolas Salazar Sutil, follows the movement of the cave. If for instance a lion is drawn on the rocks in the cave, this is not a representation of a lion that exists outside the cave, but an expression of the movement that is present in the rock. In that sense, the movement that is being transmitted through the cave is being emphasized by the drawing on the walls.

The reason for linking this cave art to Langer’s notion of the perception of movement beyond the body is that I believe that in both cases it is not about communicating but transmitting movement in order to create art. In dance, in the way Langer describes it, the bodies transmit movement. In cave art, the act of drawing follows the movement of the rock in order to get in touch with a mythical power, a power that is connected to the cave as being explained by Jean Clottes in Why Did They Draw in Those Caves?: “When we look at the way traditional people consider the subterranean world we are struck by its consistency. Everywhere in the world, deep caves are thought to be “other worlds,” the dwelling places of spirits, gods, or the dead” (2013).

What interests me about this ‘other world’ and the unknown of the caves is the fact that it creates something mystical and evokes a sensation of fear. I think this fear for the unknown is related to the relation between the human and technology, in which the technology and its agency are seen as a non-human power that we cannot fully control. We as humanities scholars try to understand this relation and investigate the fear that surrounds the agency of technology (as a non-human power). In that sense, you could see cave art as a way to deal with the power of this ‘other world’ Because those caves have a certain power, as Jean Clottes wrote: “The cave was alive and its will could not be denied” (2013). That sounds quite scary….


  • Clottes, Jean. Why Did They Draw in Those Caves? Time and Mind 6.1 (2013): 7-14.
  • Langer, Susanne K. Feeling and Form: A Theory of Art. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, (1953).