Allegory of the Cave Painting

A 2010 archeological study found that the prehistoric Gwion Gwion paintings in Australia, whose chromatic vividness contrasts with their age and their exposure to sun and rain, are inhabited by “living pigments.” A symbiotic biofilm of red cyanobacteria and black fungi sustains a process of permanent self-painting, while also etching the pictures deeper into the quartz wall. The texts commissioned for the reader respond, from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, to an idiosyncratic temporality and economy—or ecology—of signification. Descending from an inscrutable past to the same extent that they are made now, in a radical contemporaneity, the Gwion Gwion are examined as an allegorical metabolism that generates new articulations of “art” and “life,” contamination and purity, prehistory and modernity, bacterial and human colonies, lost knowledge and scientific advancement—collaborative relations between antonyms, altered schemas of “origin” and “identity.”

Accompanying the same name exhibition, the reader Allegory of the Cave Painting is edited by Mihnea Mircan & Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei and published by Mousse.

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