[ISEA94] Panel: Frances Dyson, Jeffrey Shaw, Alexandru Antik & Margaret Morse – 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]

  • Dr. Frances Dyson  is a practising media artist and theorist who specializes in sound. She has exhibited, lectured and published widely in Australia and overseas, most recently at the Kawasaki Museum in Tokyo for Sound Culture Japan, and the “Art and Virtual Environments” symposium at The Banff Centre for the Arts, Canada. Currently she is lecturing in Media Arts at the University of Wollongong, Australia
  • Jeffrey Shaw is an artist who has been making interactive electronic installations since the mid 1960s. His works have been exhibited at major museums and festivals world wide. He is Director of the Institute for Image Media.Zentrum fur Kunst und Medientechnologie, Karlsruhe, Germany.
  • Alexandru Antik, Romania
  • Margaret Morse teaches criticism and theory of electronic culture at the University of California at Santa Cruz, USA. She has published art criticism on work in a variety of genres from single-channel video, installations, media-architecture and interactive art to virtual environments. Her publications on electronic culture treat topics from news, sports, aerobics, and talk shows and television events like the Romanian Revolution and the Gulf War to malls, freeways, cyberspace and issues such as What Do Cyborgs Eat?