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Arts 2013, 2(4), 273-327; doi:10.3390/arts2040273
Article

The Case for Hand Stencils and Prints as Proprio-Performative

Independent scholar, 9 Blair Street, Watson, Australian Capital Territory, 2602, Australia
Received: 29 October 2013 / Revised: 11 November 2013 / Accepted: 12 November 2013 / Published: 5 December 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue World Rock Art)

Abstract

Hand stencils and prints are found globally in rock art, reflecting the sine qua non role of the hand in human evolution. The body itself is the tool, and it affords the registering, in the form of a trace, of what perceptual psychology terms an “ecological self”. More than a “signature”, a hand mark is uniquely “proprio-performative”, combining inscription of individuality with direct address. The first part of this paper looks at what might get in the way of a universally readable primary meaning by methodically addressing issues of technique and cultural specificity. Having cleared the ground, it proceeds to make its argument for hand stencils and prints as constituting a special category of rock art imagery. It does this by having recourse to ideas currently under discussion in cognitive psychology: awareness of self-agency and body-ownership, as well as the notion of perceived looming in pictures. Finally, an appeal is made to the claim for a key mirror neuron role in communication. Because they are traces of actions eliciting mirror-neuronal responses, hand marks are seen as affording a readily accessible external term in an exchange of meaning on which a system of graphic communication might be built.
Keywords: rock art; hand stencils and hand prints; technique; cultural specificity; decorated hands; patterned hands; gestural language; looming; representational momentum; mirror neurons; proprio-performatives rock art; hand stencils and hand prints; technique; cultural specificity; decorated hands; patterned hands; gestural language; looming; representational momentum; mirror neurons; proprio-performatives
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Dobrez, P. The Case for Hand Stencils and Prints as Proprio-Performative. Arts 2013, 2, 273-327.

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