THE CAVE

(2019 - in progress)                                           

     The Idols of the Cave are the idols of the individual man. For everyone (besides the errors common to human nature in general) has a cave or den of his own, which refracts and discolors the light of nature, owing either to his own proper and peculiar nature.

                                                                                                             Francis Bacon "Novum Organum".

          I spent my childhood and youth in a small calm stanitsa (Cossack settlement) in Kuban region of Russia. After 15 years of my "adolescent" rat race life in a megapolice there came the desire "to escape to the country". It has been four years already since I voluntarily isolated myself in a cozy cave of maternity, living in our country house in Ulyanovka, Leningrad oblast. I deliberately restrict social contacts, intentionally limit media consumption, my whole life is bound up now in my home, children and art practice. But against all expectations my new life - in the absence of any obvious negative external factors - resembles less and less a calm and quiet mother-child bond.

          The notion of the cave has become for me the quintessence of what a personal experience is made up of. While working on the project I found out that this ancient archetype has gone deep into human subconscious. The cave has been the first most famous form of habitation since Paleolithic and has become a symbol of a shelter, home. It was viewed as a sacred place in the most ancient myths and was compared to a mini cosmos.  It was the birthplace of the gods and there they went to die, initiates were taught sacred knowledge there.

          Our ancestors viewed the cave as the beginning of the world, the Womb of the Universe. The notion of the cave has been connected with the Anima and the cult of the Earth-Mother, the symbol of fertile soil that gives lives and takes away.

Plato's Cave was the starting point for the whole metaphysics and became the seminal idea for the European mentality.  In the modern age F. Bacon, developing the idea of Plato, stated that the "idols of the cave" arise from education and custom, the past of each individual person - all those determine how we perceive things. In psychoanalysis a cave represents a symbol of regressive desires and of the unconscious.

          As for me, isolation in my own cave triggered a childhood trauma that had not been resolved emotionally (had not been fully overcome) - a stress disorder after a series of four deaths and a suicide in the family over a very short period of time.  The secluded setting of a country house resurrected the memories of tension in the family and of the pompous and theatrical provincial funeral. Along with that an inadequate connection with the external environment caused an increase in anxiety, and the children contributed to my irritability by continuously violating personal boundaries. As a result I started to experience problems with self-control, there came the sense of inadequacy: I would not go out in the fear of having an accident, I was scared of the future, the bursts of uncontrollable anger were happening more often and I started to regularly take my anger out on my husband and the kids with the guilt and regret to follow.

          In the project I am constructing my personal cave: I am combining the photos I made in my  parents' house, the place of the fears I had not overcome, in the region of  Kuban with the pictures of the place I am living in at the moment;  I am recording the experience of a physical presence in Sablinskiye Caves situated near our house in Ulyanovka*. Like consciousness hallucinates in a real cave under the conditions of sensory deprivation*, so my memory and imagination produce their own illusions - an imaginary threat - in a closed space of the house and resurrect the scenarios and the ghosts of the past.

          At the same time motherhood, social isolation and the awakening of the primitive instincts connected with them - maternal instinct, aggression and fear of death - make every moment of life extremely intense and meaningful.  An “in-cave” living boosts creativity: it becomes a personal myth, makes a plot for the project and initiates reflexive processes.

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* Sablinskiye caves (also Sablino caves) - artificial subterranean caves in Ulyanovka, Leningrad oblast. The outcome of silica sand mining for glass production in the end of the 19th century. At the present moment there is no trustworthy map of the caves system, but it is considered that there are no less than 20 twisting passes creating a network of 5.5 km long. 

http://www.sablino.net/

 

** Sensory deprivation - a situation when sensory input to the brain is reduced naturally or deliberately. Although short periods of sensory deprivation can be beneficial, relaxing and even pleasant extended periods have detrimental effects, often causing (among other things) hallucinations, delusions, hyper suggestibility, or panic, distorted perception of time and space, distorted sense of self. 

Perceptive deprivation/isolation is sometimes viewed as a significant reduction of the important for a person information, however other senses receive enough stimuli. 

Psychology and Pedagogics Dictionary. 2013.