10 Ways of Looking at a Waterfall: A Digital Exhibition: Part 3

falls

[Image Courtesy of David Matysiak]

This week we are very proud to bring you the 3rd and final installment of our 3-part digital exhibition of multimedia works inspired by a recent Community Cave Excursion to Ruby Falls, a popular tourist cave that is equal parts museum, natural wonder, and roadside attraction located just outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee.

If you would like to learn more about our purposes for making this trip and the circumstances under which our featured artists produced their amazing pieces please see the introductory essay that accompanied Part 1 of this exhibition.

A few quick glosses on the pieces that follow:

Devin Brown’s poetical micro-essay investigates the Falls excursion as a collective act of multi-sensory perception.

– In a disarming display of direct address, New Cave Artist Chelsea Weyler “invite[s] the viewer to see what I have seen and to create your own narratives from the images I have given.” Comprised of both sonic and pictorial elements, Chelsea’s piece begins as an exercise in seeing the Falls afresh. (She candidly admits to having visited the attraction five times, and her childhood memories and impressions of the Falls clearly impinge upon what she chooses to focus on here.) Chelsea emphasizes the ways in which navigating through cave spaces so often reorients our relationships both to Time generally and to our own personal histories in particular. Assuming that we accept her generous invitation, the viewer/listener becomes an active participant in the piece’s construction as he or she adds her own layers of meaning to the artifacts Chelsea has assembled.

– At first glance Lear Bunda’s piece might strike you almost as a prank, a light-hearted and highly ironical piece of guerilla artwork that was constructed using everybody’s favorite looping mobile video app Vine. To Lear’s comic imagination, the “Donkey” feature at the Falls immediately brought to mind rapper 12 Gauge’s early 90’s Miami bass classic “Dunkie Butt.” But don’t let Lear’s seemingly cavalier attitude fool you. His piece brings up serious questions about what sorts of media and what ranges of tones are appropriate for rendering Cave Art in the 21st century. It also dares to take the Falls’s sometimes corny presentation literally on its own terms. What is more, the piece displays the process of one New Cave Artist’s struggle to relate himself to these underground formations by using as an anchor familiar (and slightly absurdist) associations from the aboveground world.

Meta Gary’s time-lapsed video compresses our group’s roughly 2-hour journey into a minute-long nugget that draws attention to the physical activity of descending to the staging area of the Falls. A sort of fulcrum or pivot point on the tour, the Falls themselves are here depicted as a quiet technicolor burst, a pocket of sensory stimulation into which a viewer might lose him or herself in contemplation. (The rest of the video is rendered in rugged black-and-white.) Just as our memories are mediated, cropped, and trimmed versions of our own experiences Meta’s video offers a condensed and sometimes unsettled illustration of the winding journey to and from the Falls.

 

After the Falls: Aleatory Notes on Cave Tourism

by Devin Brown

I.

A note on structure:

I had thought of dividing it into 11 sections. An attempt at inseminating the perspectival kaleidoscope.

11 people enter the Falls and thereby produce 11 vantages. Each a polygonal cell comprising the insect’s over-eye.

 

II.

But that assumes, of course, that each seer is limited to a single valence and that his attentions are not further subdivided, split.

 

III.

Perhaps it is all too complicated for my overly simplistic algorithms.

Let’s return then to the drawing board. No arbitrary schemes and no grand gestures.

 

IV.

Had we all been equipped with recording devices and interviewed each other simultaneously in those resonant chambers or in the felty air-treated atmosphere of dad’s van, the result would have been…

What? Cacophony?

 

V.

Or incidental music of the sort environments produce when no one is actively listening?

 

VI.

Embedded as those 24-hour news cycle heroes are, swaddled in flak-jackets and dramatically helmeted, in faraway places of a mythical variety, “off the grid” as our dull parlance now would have it.

But we were buried underground and therefore not so much off of anything as injected deeply within it.

 

VII.

And you telling me over and over again later about the pics you got of my father and me who could easily pass as the brother I never had.

 

VIII.

It was all about conveyance. The spaces in between. Interstitial experiences that evaporated as soon as you apprehended them.

 

IX.

An example:

Standing with arm extended holding my sensory prosthetic. The light from the Falls turning faces infernal red.

No one looked unfamiliar. Even the hop-ons who’d later tacked onto the group had become the group. The social experiment I had envisioned had overstepped the parameters I’d set up to contain it.

The instruments flickered, ticked. Gauging their infinitesimal changes infinitesimally.

The lights and the soundtrack that were deployed to trigger something like a gut response from me behaved narcotically instead.

I felt nothing until the guide informed us it was time to disperse.

 

X.

Why is it that the unintended consequences possess the greatest affective wallop?

 

XI.

In the beginning there was rain.

But in the afternoon the clouds parted and white-gold sunrays streamed lazily through clouds that had rent like an old pair of hose.

 

XII.

Mother insisted we stop for half-and-half and dashing under the awning of the corner store a curtain of cold water roused me.

Did you consider yourself a chaperone before someone else jokingly suggested it?

 

XIII.

I might have spent the entire afternoon in the gift shop watching her veiny fingers manipulate the TV rock.

 

XIV.

I wanted to pay attention to the ceiling, the floors, the fixtures, the wires, every breathy undertone, the loud placards, the prerecorded interludes.

Instead I found myself watching the others watching, waving their tools, employing their techne for invisible purposes.

Everyone encased in a bubble of attentiveness that like a cell’s semi-porous walls admitted some things and rejected others.

 

XV.

If the cave is a womb then our perceptions of it are at least partially hysterical.

So why is it I feel so sober in my attempt to conjure it up again for you now?

 

XVI.

What I know: The experience of a place happens only ever retrospectively. The memory is a site we return to in order to recall originary sensations we never had.

 

XVII.

It isn’t possible to conclude since endings in these cases become prefixes for new words we aren’t yet sure how to pronounce.

“I” is a commonwealth of sensitive subjects each probing, scouring, excavating.

These words illustrate pictures I had no hand in making. My own pensees are ghostwritten.

Only this: In community seeing and hearing are amplified, first dis- and then re-embodied.

 

XVIII.

The glyphs on the walls are humanoid but no primitive Rembrandt signed his John Hancock to them.

I am finished with summary statements. I don’t want to have the last word.

Authorship in this case is an illusion.

***

Devin Brown is the director of and a regular contributor to Speleogen.

Imagination

by Chelsea Wildflower Loftin Weyler

[Images titled “desert storm” “supernatural sky” and “silent lake (our hero’s journey ends in the underground lake he has heard whispers of his entire life)”]

 

Chelsea Wildflower Loftin Weyler can never drink enough water. She has four jobs and no money. She is currently stage managing at Dad’s Garage and helping with outreach for a film about Lonnie Holley. She said the last quote in Lear’s bio.

Ruby Falls Dunkie Butt

by Lear Bunda

@LearBunda is a Filmmaker from the Space Coast and a musician known as Spacewalker. He currently edits Squidbillies on [adultswim] where he was animated going to a cave with an invisible baby. He’s interested in exploring the world outside of comedy, but if you like comedy check out his work:
NeonAsteroidTV | Skeleton Guy | Mortal Komband

QUOTES:
“I have 400 records I haven’t listened to.” -Lear Bunda
“You should listen to them.” -Mason Brown

“I forgot the sanscrit.” -Meredith Kooi

“Should we get some fireworks to setup on the falls?” -David Matysiak

Everything Devin said.

“I could do anything if I only knew what it was.” -I have no idea who said this.

Cavedrag

by Meta Gary

Meta Gary is a New Cave Artist based out of Decatur, GA.

 

We invite you to peruse the first 2 installments of our 3-part digital exhibition here and here.

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