The Metaphor of Cave in the Electronic Arts


Session Title:

  • The Metaphor of Cave in the Electronic Arts (Artists in Cyberculture: Spacecapes)

Presentation Title:

  • The Metaphor of Cave in the Electronic Arts



  • Panel Statement

    “Fire rise! Freedom! Seated before the hearth the fireside audience is in rapt attention. In the furnace/puppet theater dance the burning flame of passion. The heavenly chords sing and separate from the director. Inflamed by the new found freedom sink amidst the lapping tongues. Offered the choice you will gladly resubmit to slavery. This is too intense. There are those who in captive chains sink under the weight, then there are those perverts who, fettered, raise their heads high in joy. Am I sorry for the perversions of my past? …I’m sorry, please take me back!”

    _Mike Kelly, Plato’s Cave, Rothko’s Chapel, Lincoln’s Profile, (Venice, CA: New City Editions, 1986, p.44.)

    The prehistoric cave was not only a shelter for human beings, it was a liminal sphere, a sacred place of transformation and for influencing the external world by means of images drawn on the wall. The cave or archetypal metaphor of being under or inside the earth evokes the enclosure of the womb and a sphere much like the underworld of antiquity, a realm not only of shades of the dead, but of unrealized possibilities, fantasies and dreams. For Plato, the cave was the counter- realm of reason. His Parable of the Cave is many things at once: a hierarchy of values—in Mike Kelly’s rendition: “You are just an imperfect shadow of a single perfect idea be fouled by matter, dirtied and made inconsistent by the clumsiness of matter—brutish matter” , a description of an apparatus of mystification, a metapsychology, and a prescription. The cave became the theoretical model for fiction in theater and later in film. What relevance does the cave metaphor have to various apparatuses in the electronic arts? What sorts of values and experiences are invoked in recent invocations of the cave as apparatus and metaphor? The object of this round-table is to use the cave not to arrive a unified conclusions, but as a way of following the unfolding of deep metaphor across cultures and apparatuses, and across different media and values related to concrete social and cultural experiences. Is the cave an appropriate metaphor for the transformation of information societies into electronic culture?
    Margaret Morse will introduce the parable, the metaphor and the apparatus and discuss some of its ramifications for recent work in the electronic arts, including Beryl Korot and Steve Reich’s The Cave as Biblical story and socio-political metaphor, as well as the CAVE apparatus for projecting images, to which Jeffrey Shaw’s EVE apparatus was a response. After Jeffrey Shaw’s description of EVE, Frances Dyson will introduce ‘the cave of the imagination’ metaphor in sound art and her critique of the model of interiorization implicit in it. Finally, Alexandru Antik, a Romanian artist living in Cluj Napoca will introduce several recent pieces, including “The Prison of Fantasy”, a powerful evocation of dystopic enclosure installed at the “Ex Oriente…

    [text truncated – p127 of ISEA94 Catalogue is missing]