Friday, April 3, 2009

The POK Cave


In 2008, I got one of ten shipping containers to create an installation inside of, as part of the Three Rivers Arts Festival. It was my first attempt at large scale, immersive installation. I had been wanting to do something like this for a long time, since I had been creating many mummy sites, shrines and objects, and I wanted for them to have a contextual world to live in, if only for a moment. The idea behind this installation was to create a space that played with the viewer's perception of reality, offering a fantastical realm rendered to full physicallity. The POK Cave became the meeting point for three of my conceptual bodies of work: Mummy Sites, Visionary Chambers and Ritual Tables. I would like to describe all three of these practices individually, but for now I'll just share the cave in general. It took one week to construct, but several months to ideate and prepare. The Cave included a desert-like scenario covered with two types of soil and sand, dried plants, made artifacts, a mummy site and a Goddess shrine, 8 visionary-chamber peep holes into other realms, and a ritualistic table/sorcerer's portal, which also included my Animal Suit and a Meta-map. The map shows a winged serpent, symbol of the meeting point between Heaven and Earth; also a sequence of Sacred Geometry elements and a fractal snowflake which is a form of diminishing tessellation. The Animal Suit is made of knotted chord dyed with vine berries, and is used as a vessel for astral travel. The table has a series of ceremonial tools and a micro model of the site. The 8 Visionary Chambers are holes "dug" into the main mound wall that contain arrangements and are viewed into through a magnifying lense. Hundreds of people walked through this archaeological dreamscape, acompanied by the proper lighting and a sound environment to enhance the ominous feel of the space. I was pretty happy with it and it was a bummer that after three weeks I had to take it all down! It was a good experience though. Here is a slide show of the process, and some details and documentation. I also made a video of it, non of which really do justice to the experience of the space itself, but oh well, maybe I'll do it again some day...

So, in the slide show you can see the empty container first. It was 40 feet by 8 feet by 8 feet. I had a lot of materials, most of which I gathered, since the budget was minimal. I had lots of chicken wire, newspaper, elmer's glue, flour and dug-out local clay. These became the main components of this concoction. I started with a chicken wire structure, forming the "geography" of the site. Then, I covered it with paper mache and finally with clay. Then, the fun part begun, when I started adding detail and making it look realistic. I really had to spend the entire day and a big chuck of the night on all seven days of the construction to be able to finish it. Good thing I got lots of help from my wife and friends, and lots of support. Also, most of the detail creations you see had been made before the installation, so I just had fun setting them up. It was also a challenge to figure out how to make the space and works people-proof. The geography did suffer some damage throughout the weeks of exhibit, but non of the actual artwok was damaged or stolen, which made me proud and happy of Pittsburgh's status in terms of art appreciation. Throughout the exhibit, I received the whole spectrum of responses, all the way from "this is the coolest thing I have seen", to "what is this all about, gypsies?", passing thru all levels of amazement and confusion. A couple of people stopped at the entrance and refused to continue(?). Other people came back several times, or stayed inside for extended periods of time. Overall, it was just what I had wanted. A window....

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