Documentation of the INFINITE CAVE installed at the Esplanade Arts and Heritage Centre, 2023.
INFINITE CAVE – ARTIST STATEMENT
2015 – 2022
THE INFINITE CAVE is a multimedia art project that originated as a reaction to and a reflection upon the concept of “post truth”. The project subsequently evolved into an adventure into online sharing culture and a look at how social media challenges our understanding of truth and reality.
Friedrich Nietzsche asserts that there is no such thing as an objective truth. Because of this, he is often referenced in discussions of “post truth” but for me, Plato’s Allegory of the Cave from 375 B.C.E. provides a more poignant glimpse into the relationship between cyber culture and truth.
In the Allegory of the Cave, Plato compares our understanding of truth to that of prisoners whose world view is entirely based upon puppet shadows dancing across a cave wall. When a prisoner is released, his journey out of the cave reveals a series of insights about the layered nature of truth and reality. I became fascinated by the extraordinary similarities between the shadows on Plato’s cave wall and the social media content that we thumb through on our devices. Like the shadows on Plato’s cave wall, the images dancing across our screens are both true and untrue; they are a selective truth.
I started to think of the internet as an endless version of Plato’s cave wall; an infinite cave of partial truths. Ecological philosopher Timothy Morton describes the internet as a “hyperobject” that is as much a part of the natural world as a forest. He holds that there is no separation between humanity and nature. We (Homo sapiens) are a part of nature and therefore, everything we create is also part of nature, including the internet.
With this art project, I wanted to develop a visualization of the internet as an infinite cave. I imagined that universal truths could be divined from the endless flow of partial truths. To this end, I created a continuous barrage of social media imagery radiating from a wall of video displays. The idea is that each viewer will act as their own algorithm creating an individualized experience in which patterns and meanings emerge from the visual white noise.
Ralph Waldo Emerson famously stated: “I cannot remember all the books I’ve read any more than all the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” This correlation between experience and self is at the conceptual core of this art project.
It can be said that our existence is defined by a sequence of moments within the set parameters of birth and death. From that perspective, climbing a mountain or scrolling through social media is equally real, equally a part of our experience of the world and equally part of who we are. The moment-to-moment experience of this art project is itself an extension of this idea.
THE INFINITE CAVE is a meditation on the nature of experience and a reflection on how we, as a species, relate to each other and impact the world around us. It is a slice of planet Earth as seen through a million eyes.
THE INFINITE CAVE has three parts: The Sun, The Earth, and The Moon. The work is installed in a large dark room.
The Earth part is comprised of 162 video displays that are mounted on the wall in an elliptical configuration. From a distance, the work is reminiscent of a gothic stain glass window. Up close, the work reveals a wildly diverse anthology of observations from every corner of our planet.
The structure of the Earth is based on the ancient idea of the four elements (EARTH, AIR, FIRE, and WATER). The four elements are arranged in concentric rings reminiscent of a geology diagram that shows a cross section of our planet. The center of the work (the core of the planet) contains videos related to the element FIRE. For example, there are videos of volcanoes, forest fires, explosions, house fires, etc. Surrounding the fire imagery are videos representing the element EARTH, which include everything from people and cities, to animals, plants and landscapes. The EARTH imagery is surrounded by WATER, and the outermost ring features the element AIR.
Bracketing the Earth are representations of the Sun and the Moon created from imagery uploaded to the internet by various space agencies. A drone-like soundscape emanating from all three parts was composed from recordings of the electromagnetic radiation emitted from each of the corresponding celestial bodies (the Sun, The Earth and the Moon).
Various aspects of this project reference artists such as Nam June Pak, Michael Snow, Bruce Conner, Sarah Sze, Bill Viola, Christian Marclay and Robert Rauschenberg.
Overall, the project uses more than half a million video clips sourced from social media posts that were shared by people from all around the world. When searching for the visual content for this project, I utilized proxy servers, VPNs, multiple languages, and other techniques to fight against the algorithms to ensure that the content I collected was from as broad of a spectrum as possible. My goal was to expose the raw edifice of the human condition contained in the enormous amounts of information available on social media globally. I divided the half-million videos into 164 general categories and created themed compilations (film collages) for each category.
THE INFINITE CAVE is a multicultural map of human experience presented simultaneously on 164 screens. The visual content is designed to continuously evolve and change. Each experience of the work will be completely unique.
The narrative content in THE INFINITE CAVE is seductive and engrossing but the collective whole of this project asks big questions about who we are and our place in the universe.