Fresh From the Depths

Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park, Domes and Dripstones Tour. Image courtesy of Mason Brown.

Greetings Fellow Speleogians,

We write with a couple of important announcements concerning our cave art collective’s most recent activities both above- and belowground:

I. Our New Publication Schedule

Speleogen took a breather from publishing new content on a weekly basis after posting the final installment of our 3-part Ruby Falls digital exhibition. The reasons for this hiatus were twofold.

First, our roles as collaborative artists have grown and diversified. When Speleogen launched in May of 2013 we suspected its structures and working methods would have broader applications for projects that were then only nascent or partially formed.

Since that time Speleogen Team Members David Matysiak, Mason Brown, and I have initiated several new collaborative artistic ventures, including the monthly podcast ROAM and the experimental stage play concept chitchats.

But these were only the beginnings. Just last Sunday Mason concluded a weeks long sound and performance collaboration with artist, scholar, and honorary Speleogen Team Member Meredith Kooi at MINT Gallery as part of the Sumptuary series. (You can sample audio from this series of events here.) And later this summer Mason will also premier a companion piece to his and Ian Cone’s Synaesthesia sound and light performance concept at The Goat Farm Arts Center here in Atlanta.

Mason, David, Jordan Noel, and I have also been rehearsing and performing as the four-piece musical outfit Boating.

We enumerate just a handful of the activities that have been commanding our time and attentions to emphasize this crucial point:

Although Speleogen was (at least for some of us) practically the only gig in town when it began roughly one year ago it has since spawned a number of related but wholly unique projects that have come to represent a new constellation of creative exchange of which our cave art concept plays but one substantial part.

Second, we came to the collective decision that posting new content every week was no longer necessary for this project.

Speleogen’s original weekly publication schedule reflected a serious need on the part of our then fledgling organization to learn just how to manage our new collaborative frameworks. We were zealous to make and share new work and we were driven by our passions and idiosyncratic interests to see exactly what types of possibilities these new parameters would allow us to explore.

Over the course of the ensuing year we have settled into our new modes of artmaking and we have begun to ask serious questions about how we should administer each of these projects.

Insofar as Speleogen is concerned we have come to the following conclusions:

- Our work has been for the most part site-specific, comprised primarily of reflections about and extrapolations upon the geographically-bound cave systems we visit at specific times and with specific people

- Rather than arbitrarily impose a weekly publication structure, which we all felt had mostly lost its efficacy, we propose instead to cluster upcoming posts around future excursions thereby respecting the site-specific and time-bound nature of most of the work we do

- We will therefore publish new work less frequently but in a more concentrated manner, and the posts themselves will likely be more substantial as they seek ways to build more highly immersive multimedia systems that we and our implied audiences can traverse using our senses

Beginning next week and continuing on through the month of May, Speleogen will embark upon a newer and looser publication regimen that reflects all of these values as well as our exciting and now multifaceted careers as collaborative artists.

Our first series of posts that will incorporate this new schedule will focus on the Team’s most recent excursion to Mammoth Cave National Park.

Historic Graffiti_Mammoth Cave

Historic graffiti, Mammoth Cave National Park, Historic Tour. Image courtesy of Devin Brown.

II. Excursion 5 : Mammoth Cave : March 21-23, 2014

Ingrid and Mason_Great Sand Cave

Ingrid Magnuson and Mason Brown at The Great Sand Cave, final resting place of Floyd Collins, Mammoth Cave National Park. Image courtesy of Devin Brown.

At the end of March a three-person contingent of the Speleogen crew, including me, Mason Brown, and our newest Team Member Ingrid Magnuson, ventured from Atlanta, GA, to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.

The Team spent two long days touring portions of the world’s longest cave, extracting media in digital and analog formats while also creating pieces both onsite and in transit, and we are currently working hard to prepare our multimedia and genre-stretching works for publication here at speleogen.com beginning next week.

The series of pieces that will serve as our meditations upon the Mammoth experience will be the first that make use of our spanking new publication schedule. Because our work is still very much in-progress we hesitate to hem ourselves in with grand pronouncements about what you can expect from our final offerings.

Audio Nerds_Mammoth Cave

Daniel Barber, Mason Brown, and Devin Brown flashing digital audio gadgets before the Domes and Dripstones Tour, Mammoth Cave National Park. Image courtesy of Colleen Clines.

However, we can list a few of our guiding principles, which are helping to lead us on our way as we hone and refine our pieces:

- We are invested in further complicating/investigating notions of authorship and exploring questions about to whom we can attribute responsibility for the creation of an artwork, especially when that work is constructed collaboratively

- We want to challenge conventions of media hierarchy, i.e. the idea that a picture or video, when posted alongside text for example, is merely an illustration of (and therefore subservient to) whatever the text argues or vice versa

- We want to use the plasticity of our Web-based publication platform to reflect upon cave morphology, especially the ways in which caves are continually formed, weathered, and eroded

Make sure to check back in with us next Thursday as we begin to roll out the pieces that will inaugurate the Mammoth Period of Speleogen’s development.

III. Emory University Classroom Visit with Meredith Kooi

On April 10th Speleogen made its debut on the college lecture circuit.

Honorary Team member, fellow collaborator, and close friend Meredith Kooi, who is a PhD student at Emory University’s Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts, invited members of the Team to present their work to the class she is currently instructing.

Our presentation was framed (at least in part) as a response to readings by theorists such as Nicolas Bourriaud and Claire Bishop on the topic of what has been dubbed collaborative or relational aesthetics.

The Team–which that afternoon was rounded out by Paige Adair, myself, Mason Brown, Ingrid Magnuson, and David Matysiak–took turns narrating stories to the class of undergraduates about what it is like to work on Speleogen. Additionally, each Team Member shared a specific finished piece from speleogen.com or a work-in-progress that she or he felt exemplified or problematized the story that he or she told.

Mere's Syllabus

A page from the syllabus for Meredith Kooi’s course at Emory University. Image courtesy of Devin Brown.

This class visit was immensely satisfying for a number of reasons. It provided a platform in a formal, institutionalized space to share our working methodologies with a group of mature young students. Moreover, it gave each member of the assembled Team an opportunity to reflect openly and publicly about his or her personal experiences working on the project.

It also allowed the pieces we shared to live a different sort of life from what we might have originally intended for them. Consumed in a group setting with images beamed onto a large, raised projection screen and with audio broadcast over an ample sound system, the pieces possessed a different timber than we assume they otherwise might when viewed/heard by a solitary spectator via lap- or desktop computer. The readings Meredith selected and which she shared with the Team ahead of time provided a great deal of theoretical grist for the group to work through as well.

We are very thankful to Meredith for allowing us to come present to her students and we are honored that her students were so attentive and respectful both of us and our ways of working.

***

We must bid adieu to you now, brave Caving Comrades. But we look forward with excitement to launching our new publication schedule next week and we can’t wait to share with you all of the amazing happenings that transpired at Mammoth Cave National Park.

Team Speleogen