Reality Box? (Petr Agha)

Allegory of the cave is perhaps the best known parable by which we express our conviction of the existence of true nature of reality and our (in)ability to discover it one day.

Our perception of the world is always mediated by our senses, which is why the world in which we live is also, rather than being the objective manifestation of reality, a sum of subjective experiences perceived by variously situated individuals. Their perception of the world reflects interactions with concepts that have, in the course of their lives, become part of our cognitive apparatus and through which we not only discover the world around us, but also experience, describe, and share it.

What lends these concepts, ideas, and ideologies the sense of tangible substance and appearance of reality is, above all, the process of our self-identification with the meaning attributed to such concept by our environment, tied to the context, in which we live. This tendency is entirely automatic, which is the reason why our reactions are pre-conditioned, so to speak. Our perception of the world may then be compared to dreaming of reality – we feel that we authentically perceive reality, but in fact we merely reproduce models which have, over time and with our gradual socialization, become landmarks on our cognitive horizon.

Is it even possible to discern the real actuality, if such a thing even exists, or are we, right from our childhood, condemned to infinite movement in space delineated by the images of our forebears and our inability to step outside their bounds? Do we really dwell inside Plato’s cave, chained to our rock so that we cannot shift our gaze, forced to watch mere reflections and shadows of dummys and other objects projected onto the wall before us? Is our cognition of the world a mere participation in the conjurer’s performance of shady theatre, during which those confounded to the cave do not realize that what they see is nothing more than shadows of objects shifting in front of the eternal fire, do not even know that the objects are just poor representations of the real things existing outside the cave, as described through Plato by Socrates?

But what if everything is little more complicated that what Plato presumed? Sure, the seeming eternity and certainty with which ideas and ideologies occupy the field of vision of our lives begin to crumble the moment we start to question them. Very soon we realize that they are all but empty forms with no inherent meaning. Allegory of the cave stems from the conviction that there is such a thing as true reality, and only because we are incapable of perceiving it as other than a mere refraction, we create in our minds false idols which we, by mistake, consider to be true.

Allegory of the cave also implies that, one day, somebody will come and be able to turn around to see what actually takes place in the cave, escape the cave and glimpse an insight into the true nature of existence. Therefore this allegory also presumes that there existis some external neutral point of reference from which we can securely compare the actual reality to its misrepresented perception, the reflection on the cave wall. However, the presence of idea of the higher truth in our cognitive field that can be seen by glancing beyond the bounderies of the ordinary comes with one fatal consequence.

If the fundamentals of our world are freed from the framework which determines its content and meaning, and are to be found outside this world, then it is no longer clear how we are to evaluate various testimonies on the nature of things. The same staement could be understood as either true, or false. Concepts of the world essence, or any universals, can in the end be nothing but false interpretations of existence, based on the idealistic illusion that categories of thinking are not conditioned by social, historical, and material context in which they are placed. The same goes for the idea that it is precisely the human activity, human mind, our dreams and desires, which produce the real image of the world. And, after all, the same could be said for the current installation by Petr Dub.