This talk will investigate the real and symbolic values attributed to a variety of empty spaces created in diverse grounds, ranging from the large scale, inhabitable spaces of caves and architecture, to the cavities or hollow interiors of offering vessels, to the drilling of holes in ceramic dishes and the piercing of human flesh. It will be argued that these collectively reflect a fundamental metaphysical conception held by ancient Mesoamerican peoples of the void as a necessary prerequisite for the emergence of life and its associated creative energies and material abundance. A close analysis of a specific Classic Maya dish with a hole drilled through its center serves as a point of departure for the rest of the talk, which will examine a variety of beliefs, practices, and material culture that together serve to demonstrate the consistent, widespread, and transmedial experience of voids as fecund nodes of generative potential in ancient Mesoamerica.
Vital Voids: Cavities and Holes in Mesoamerican Material Culture
Andrew Finegold (University of Illinois Chicago) in cooperation with the research program “Connecting Art Histories in the Museum” (CAHIM).
Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin
Andrew Finegold is Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Illinois Chicago, where he specializes in the visual culture of the ancient Americas. He received his doctorate from Columbia University in 2012, completing a dissertation on the brief and anomalous appearance of narrative battle imagery in Epiclassic Mesoamerica. He has held Visiting Assistant Professorships at Skidmore College and Wake Forest University and was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts. He is co-editor, with Ellen Hoobler, of the volume Visual Culture of the Ancient Americas: Contemporary Perspectives (University of Oklahoma Press, 2017), to which he contributed an essay titled Atlatls and the Metaphysics of Violence in Central Mexico. His current book project examines the real and symbolic values ascribed to holes, cavities, and voids across a variety of media in Mesoamerica.