Workshop: The Artificial Cave

by Flora Parrott
In June 2016 I borrowed the ‘Artificial Cave’ from the British Caving Association as part of an ongoing investigation into exploration of the subterranean. It arrived in a transit van in 5 foot sections made from fibreglass, painted black on the outside and blue within.
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The ‘Artificial Cave’

The Landscape Surgery workshop was an attempt to use this method of ‘thinking through making’, something that I talk with Art Students about a lot; an endeavor, no matter how simplistic to generate a physical environment or object that helps to visualise and negotiate a problem.
The groups were each given a short, vivid description from ‘Ice Caves of France and Switzerland’ by G.F Browne (first published in 1865) and asked to make the space described out of a set of resources, including: cardboard, paper, tin foil, newspaper, and various other Blue Peter-esque materials.
The results were energetic and ambitious and after an hour or so we had three ‘caves’ all very different in nature in the room. The materials had been used to represent varied forms, architectures and textures, as well as some fascinating symbolic gestures to forms impossible to make from cardboard and paper. Once the caves were complete, the groups wrote on our paper floor a set of instructions to guide a visitor through the space.

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There were two things that I found particularly interesting about the afternoon; firstly the way in which we respond to a ‘workspace’ and how quickly and dramatically a space and therefore our behaviour within it can be transformed. This was an idea that was also discussed in Cecilie Sachs-Olsen’s session a few weeks before. Whether a space is a presented as a gallery, performance space, lecture theatre or common room can change the uses and dynamics of a space. Secondly, the discussion about the ‘authenticity’ of an experience or thing: whether a reproduction can have an equal but different value to the ‘original’ from which it is drawn. I also like the idea of a text being read as instruction and being conjured into life – uniquely each time.

Flora is a practicing artist and fine art lecturer, currently a Levehulme artist-in-residence at Royal Holloway, and will be commencing her PhD at Royal Holloway in January 2017.
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