Finalist, The Cave by Maria Kokunova
It has been four years since I voluntarily isolated myself in a cosy cave of maternity, living in a country house in Leningrad Oblast. I deliberately restrict social contact and limit media consumption - my whole life is bound up in my home, children and art practice. Against all expectations, however, my life is far from calm and quiet. The notion of the cave has become, for me, the quintessence of what a personal experience is made up of. It has been linked to the Anima and the cult of the earth mother, the symbol of fertile soil that both gives life and takes it away. Francis Bacon, developing the idea of Plato, stated that the “Idols of the Cave” arise from education and custom – in short, the past of each individual determines how they perceive things. For me, isolation in my own cave triggered a childhood trauma that had not been resolved emotionally - a stress disorder triggered by a series of four deaths and a suicide in the family over a very short period of time. In this project, I am constructing my own personal cave by combining photographs I have made in my parent’s house with pictures of the place I am living in now. I pair these images with the experience of a physical presence in Sablinskiye Caves, near my home. In a cave your senses are deprived, encouraging hallucinations. Under similar conditions, my memory produces its own illusions. My work explores the idea that motherhood, and the awakening of primitive instincts such as unconditional love, aggression and fear of death, make life extremely meaningful. Despite its challenges, ‘in-cave’ living boosts creativity: it becomes a personal myth, provides a plot for the project and initiates reflective processes.