Curated by Natalya E. Maller Ry David Bradley Jade Burstall Paul Candy M. Leaf-Tierney Paul Rodgers Zoe Scoglio Andrew Turland Leon Van De Graaff
17–20 November 2010 blindside visual experimentation from the contemporary ‘cave’ artist
Tens of thousands of years ago people began marking their life onto rock. Across Europe, Asia, the Americas, Africa and Australasia are carvings and paintings of remarkable sophistication. Although their origins are still debated, the task of creating these images was most likely bestowed upon a select few (Pericot Garcia, Galloway, Lommel, 1969). They practiced, painted, carved, and etched humanity’s first art. These totems, hunting scenes, handprints, female forms and animals reflected daily life, fertility and spirituality. They formed a language of pictures that was as important as survival ‘…to protect them against powers…as real as the forces of nature’ (Gombrich, 2006). Celluloid Cave pays homage to cave artists and the 30,000 year history and evolution of art, the ritual of creativity, and the power of the image. With 21st century technology, the eight artists in Celluloid Cave (Ry David Bradley, Jade Burstall, Paul Candy, M. Leaf-Tierney, Paul Rodgers, Zoe Scoglio, Andrew Turland and Leon Van De Graaff) investigate and reinvent cave art to reflect on contemporary anthropological activity, belief and ritual. It is a study of the modern day artist as ‘cave artist’ examining the lives of distant prehistoric cousins. The artists have explored the theme of Celluloid Cave in diverse ways, drawing on an array of subjects: motifs of ‘The hunter’ and ‘Venus’, animal totems, archeological discoveries, evolution and identity, and the significance of ‘the cave’ in contemporary society. The two prehistoric motifs of ‘The hunter’ and ‘Venus’ are apparent in the works by Van De Graaff, Leaf-Tierney, and Burstall. These images of ‘male’ and ‘female’ represent the ongoing challenge of sexual stereotyping in contemporary culture and the evolution of gender identity. Leaf-Tierney’s Mute City Dreemz, (2010) and Van De Graaff’s Hunter / Ritual V1.3 (2010) examine the roles of the hunter and the hunted. The hunt contrasts the clearly defined masculine role of survival with the spiritual role of the animal in the hunterhunted relationship. Van De Graaff throws contemporary man into a ‘hunting’ costume – a proud and hopeful character who dreams of turning grocery shopping into a more dignified ‘hunting’ experience. Leaf-Tierney explores the evolution of consumer culture in Mute City Dreemz, (2010). Leaf-Tierney projects an electronic transformation where we worship a technological materialisation, becoming more removed from ‘organic’ life, while delving deeper into virtual dimensions. There is synergy in the female forms emerging from the fog in Burstall’s Above the Fog, (2010) with the 30 000 BCE stone ‘Venus’ figurines discovered throughout Europe (Sieveking, 1979). Burstall’s female lead undergoes a transformation from girl to woman while she searches for a new identity. She is a weapon-wielding, quasifemme fatale, determined to confront the stereotypes cast upon her. Robert Graves in The White Goddess (1997) examines the ‘original myth’ of the goddess throughout mythology, history and language. The female images in Burstall’s Above the Fog, (2010) incorporate aspects of Graves’ (1997) moon goddess, but as images etched in fog, they are elusive. In contrast, the stoic and ancient ‘Venus’ with her exaggerated breasts, hips, and abdomen constitutes an unmistakable child-bearing form. Andrew Turland’s INSTRUCTION 2 (for a modern man) (2010), like Van De Graaff’s, Hunter / Ritual V1.3 (2010) is a meeting of old and new. Turland reflects on the place of history in contemporary life through the ritual of shaving. Facial hair for pre-historic man was a natural defense as well as a display of sexual maturation (Muscarella and Cunningham, 1992). Just like the hunt, facial hair had a symbolic place in the male identity. Shaving and the beard for ‘modern man’, however, have a different meaning, being
mostly associated with fashion. As a viewer, we witness Turland undergoing a transformation from the ‘rugged’ to the ‘clean’, as he awkwardly sculpts into his hair with an archaic shaving tool. Rodgers’ The Other Below the Surface, (2010) and Scoglios’ Skull Study 1 – Origins, (2010) explore prehistoric activities and the cave from a different angle. They turn our attention to archaeological discoveries and evolution. Rodgers’ video of the Parisian Catacombs, ‘the man-made cave of the dead’, is a disorientating experience. Rodger’s footage provides a privileged view of kilometres of twisting tunnels, shot on Super 8 film. It is a noir abstract thriller of skulls and bones, cave decoration created not from pigments and carvings, but from our ancestors. Like Rodgers, Scolgio examines what we can create from the past, presenting her own view of evolutionary history in Skull Study 1 – Origins, (2010). Through the ritual tracing of projected patterns over artefacts of bones and shoes, Scoglio asks where have we been, and where are we going? She presents the viewer with a trance-like experience of the history of the earth. In contrast to the treatment of the dead in the Catacombs, Scoglio looks at the use of bones and rocks as compressed particles of decomposed matter, burnt as fossil fuels. Plato’s The Allegory of the Cave, discusses ‘ideas and philosophy [as] the highest and most fundamental kind of reality’ (Baird & Kaufmann, 2008) beyond the physical confines of ‘the cave’. Through exploring animal totems, Candy’s Totemic Interior #1, (2010) illustrates The Allegory of the Cave beautifully with the bird symbol. Used across many cultures to represent the spirit and spiritualisation (Cirlot, 2002) Candy’s bird, with its elegant, slow-motion flight upwards, flees the confines of surrounding architectures. ‘Celluloid’, as used in films and photography, is a reference in the title of the show to the evolution of art making and the adoption of technology into the artists’ repertoire. Ry David Bradley’s Superimposition, (2010), with pixel manipulation of a photograph of cave art, is a nod to the meeting of minds from polar ends of the time line. Whilst creating an overarching umbrella under which the artist’s desire to create is presented across histories and societies, he simultaneously highlights the vast distance over which we have travelled. From carvings and pigments on rock walls to dazzling lights, smoke and mirrors in contemporary gallery spaces, what do we experience now as artist and viewer? Although the gallery is still the main arena for artistic expression of the visual arts, it is continually being challenged. With the merging and crossover of many art forms and display, the gallery as we know it is expanding, and with the escalating role of the internet, the walls are slowly disappearing. Yet the power of art to communicate ideas remains constant. Cave paintings and carvings are suggested as the ‘first evidence of [man’s] spiritual life’ (Pericot Garcia, Galloway and Lommel, 1969). Whatever spirituality and magic modern day art possesses, humanity’s intense drive to create continues. Natalya E. Maller, 2010 References Baird, Forrest E.; Walter Kaufmann (2008). From Plato to Derrida. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall Cirlot, J.E. (2002). A Dictionary of Symbols. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc Gombrich, E. H. (2006). The Story of Art. London: Phaidon Press Limited Graves, R. (Grevel Lindop, ed.) (1997). The White Goddess. A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth. Manchester: Faber and Fabber Muscarella, F. and M. R. Cunningham (1992). The Evolutionary Significance and Social Perception of Male Pattern Baldness and Facial Hair in ‘Ethology and Sociobiology’, Vol. 17, Issue 2, 1996, pp. 99-117. Miami Shores, Florida: Barry University Press Pericot Garcia, L., Galloway, J. and A. Lommel (1969). Prehistoric and Primitive Art. London: Thames and Hudson Sieveking, A. (1979). The Cave Artists. London: Thames and Hudson
The Neolithic used the cave painting ceremonially to visualize the hunt - to either worship or call upon the Bison for its blessings (to be used for food, tools, clothing). Today, we do not use these methods – I do not visualize a supermarket or retail department store through art in order to bring food, clothing, goods etc. Our visions are of a different kind – a ‘better’ future world, dreams of a techno-future, collective aspirations for a phosphorescent urbanization, neon-nature, crystal castles... Mute City Dreemz is a dream and a memory, where 16 bit Nintendo meets floating geometries in a slow, hazy vision of a future gone totally electric. M. Leaf-Tierney Mute City Dreemz, 2010 HD Video Projection 1080p, dimensions variable
PAUL RODGERS Said to be the most haunted place in the world is the Catacombs in Paris. The Catacombs were built underneath Paris in the18th Centenary as a place to put the bones of millions of dead. Paris residents who died years ago were placed in the underground catacombs to ease the problem of the over crowded graveyards. Noblemen’s bones are intertwined with peasants like me. Below the Surface, 1991 was a four-screen work, filmed on B&W Super-8 film around 1990 when I was at college at Central St Martin’s college in London. On one of my visits to friends in Paris they planed to go down into the catacombs, the one’s not open to the public. We went in at midnight and came out at six in the morning. That was my first time down there, the next time I would have my super 8 camera. The original footage from 1990 is now reworked as one-screen work with sound. The sculptural element consists of a dismantled DVD player with LCD screen rebuilt into a round window frame found in a skip. The work is mounted on black velvet in honour of the dead. What we see is the world of the man made cave.
ZOE SCOGLIO With this work I have created my own parable of our origins, drawing links between the patterns underlying the history of the earth and the human race. A skull and shoes sit in a pile of debris like newly excavated artifacts. Projected video shadows delicately map these objects, forming patterns as if from a long forgotten ritual before transforming into a liquid state, slowly immersing the objects into darkness. Inspired by anthropological and geological evolutions this work references both the formation of fossil fuels through the compression of ancient organic remains and the temporary and ever evolving state of the human race. Zoe Scoglio Skull Study 1 – Origins, 2010 mixed media and site specific video projection: dvd player, projector, animal skull, shoes, flour, found debris 100 x 100 x 100 cm irreg.
RY DAVID BRADLEY
In an effort to implant a broader cultural identity into it’s assumed origins, I have made the most simple and unsophisticated gesture toward them. It is unclear whether the massive gap in time between them is as large as it supposed to be. The truth is I have never seen actual cave drawings, yet I am completely aware of what they look like. And while I have never drawn on those cave walls, I have drawn in the sand at beaches, and in the ubiquitous images of the Internet. In a kind of flattened Internet Awareness where differences are stitched together, sometimes crudely, sometimes seamlessly, pigmented grains and matrix pixels are just small bits in which to leave a trace of some symbolic relevance to the society they are made within.
There is no protection in a clean-shaven face. We no longer hunt for food or live at the will of the elements. The habit of hair removal and the associated tools separate us from our ancestors as a sign of civilisation, the social expectation of shaving and the development of techniques is contrary to the reasons why humans grow hair. This video work is a two-stage documentation of an attempt at a ritual foreign to me. The cameras gaze acts as a mirror in which I document the process of learning to use a method of shaving almost lost through advancements in shaving apparatus. On one screen an inflated balloon is lathered and used for practice whilst the other screen documents the first cut throat shave of a novice. The movements are awkward and clumsy, amplifying the tension of possibility within the daily ritual.
Ry David Bradley Superimposition, 2010 LED Print on Paper 49 x 60 cm
leon van der graaff
My work enlists a languid, careful quality, almost oppressively dreamlike. Heightened by the tenuous subtleties of burgeoning female sexuality, a girl on the verge of becoming a woman is engaged in an overwhelming struggle for her sense of place. The intricacies of identity, and the small-scale intimacies of everyday tensions are magnified here with the ritualistic burning of a white wedding gown by a warrior-like, crossbow wielding young woman. She is casting off fictions that simply do not fit.
Every human culture has had its hunting rituals. These traditions are passed on from one generation to another through song, dance, crafts, costumes, stories, symbols and pictures. These rituals and ceremonies usually require paying respect to the spirit of the prey, the custodians of the land (past and present) and ask blessing for success in bringing food to the extended family. From ‘Indians’ in Brazil to farmers in Bavaria, there are people continuing these traditions today.
I’m interested in surface transplantation/mobile interface based video art. In this case, by projecting into heavy fog I’m able to create a live moving screen that is interactive, so the viewer can participate in its’ formation. The fog moves differently all the time... you blow and it disappears... then it re-appears reconfiguring the footage and making new evocative three dimensional, multi-directional layers that appear almost as a hologram.
Urban and suburban consumer culture is devoid of both hunt and ritual in the gathering of food. Although some abstracted commercialized traditions remain: Christmas dinner, Easter eggs, and Thanksgiving, acknowledgement of the land and people that produced the food, and the animals that have given their lives is gone.
Jade Burstall Above the fog, 2010 video projection, fog, plastic tub, water 21 x 63 x 88 cm irreg.
In this video a lone hunter, in ceremonial dress made of discarded packaging, prepares for the hunt.
PAUL CANDY The power of the bird as a totem appears in French, Icelandic, Alaskan, Australian and U.K sites from as early as 15,000 years BCE. The inspirational relevance is still felt today in religious iconography, flying dreams and the birds eye view camera. These avian themes and tropes are saturated throughout a global media and culture. In The Allegory of Plato’s Cave: the allegory pictures an underground cave with its mouth open toward the light of a blazing fire. Within the cave are people chained so that they cannot move. They can see only the cave wall directly in front of them. This is illuminated by the light of the fire, which throws shadows of people and objects onto the wall. The cave dwellers equate the shadows with reality, naming them, talking about them, and even linking sounds from outside the cave with the movements on the wall. Truth and reality for the prisoners rest in this shadowy world, because they have no knowledge of any other. Socrates relates, if one of the inhabitants were allowed to leave the cave, he would realize that the shadows are but dark reflections of a more complex reality, and that the knowledge and perceptions of his fellow cave dwellers are distorted and flawed.
Paul Rodgers The Other Below the Surface, 2010 LCD screen, DVD player, metal, wood, glass, velvet 100 x 100 cm irreg.
Leon Van De Graaff Hunter / Ritual V1.3, 2010 salvaged materials: packaging, timber, watering can and LCD screen, DVD player, standard definition DVD PAL 4:3 200 x 0.5 x 0.5 cm irreg.
Paul Candy Totemic Interior #1, 2010 single channel video/animation projection, paper, card, acrylic, sand 100 x 130 cm irreg.
Design by: Cara Whitelaw @ www.kleimeyer.com.au Printing by: Bambra Press, Melbourne
Andrew Turland INSTRUCTION 2 (for a modern man), 2010 two channel television installation 900 x 600 x 525 cm irreg.
Catalogue for Celluloid cave Exhibition