Rebekka Ladewig

Shooting the Last Arrow, Standing Rock Reservation, North Dakota, Frank B. Fiske, 1917 (Library of Congress, 91720356)

A Cultural-Technical History of the Arrow

The projects aims at a cultural history of the arrow that aligns with an archeological and genealogical framing of the concept of pointing. The focus here is on the material-semiotic relations between one of the oldest signs in human history and one of the first technologically advanced “long-range weapons.” The semiotic uplift of the arrow and its formalization are analyzed vis-á-vis the material origins of bows and arrow in nomadic (hunting) cultures. The project argues that it is the materiality and physicality of bow and arrow with its operations of storing and transmitting energy that have informed the modern semiospheres of the arrow. Engaging with case studies from different material fields and historical segments, the study provides evidence that the operations of aiming and pointing are interrelated and that the bodily/cultural/technical operations associated with bow and arrow entered into concepts such as direction, force, projective thinking and rationality.