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Juan Downey: Plato Now

This video brought to you by Tate.org.uk

Juan Downey (1940-1993) was a Chilean artist whose innovations in video, sculpture and interactive performance encouraged reflection on perception and the self. Drawing together advances in technology with an interest in the rituals of his native Latin America, Downey asks big questions about society, history, information and the environment. In this video, his groundbreaking 1973 performance Plato Now is restaged and invites the audience members to consider their role in the piece.
Created by Tate.

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  • leaf blue style avatar for user Suus k
    This looks incredible. Did anybody here get to see this? I wonder if they explained the allogory of the cave of plato, before the people walked in.
    (6 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • purple pi purple style avatar for user Keith
      I don't think so. someone in the video stated that no one knew what what was going on, they were only viewing the meditators (and onlookers) through the "shadow realm."

      I don't know if prepping the viewers beforehand would add anything to the piece (performance?). It was definitely awesome nevertheless.
      (2 votes)

Video transcript

one of the first artists I met one of the real pioneers was the architect and sculptor and video artist Juan Downey he was an architect and a sculptor and so communication structures became very important to him very early on I mean today it's very common for architects to understand the role of communication as a invisible architecture but Downey was very early into understanding that in some ways those invisible energy structures were as important if not more important than the formal solid structures Downey had an idea that brain waves were very important thing to understand apparently when one is meditating when one has reached a level of kind of calm that the brain produces an abundance of alpha waves and Downey always being interested in technology and found an engineer friend who fashioned a switch that when alpha waves were being produced would switch on and he attached this switch to a cassette tape recorder or a series of cassette tape recorders on to which he had recorded readings from Plato's cave dialogues nine of us sat on a large platform facing a wall we had on headphones attached to the little tape recorders and these EG leaders but anyhow I was able to produce enough alpha waves that I could hear the voice everyone smile it's kind of like a lie detector you know if you can't do it you don't hear it people the audience had no idea what we were doing they'd never heard the recording it was just on headphones and all they saw was us looking at the world as shadows of reality three hard to recreate a work without anybody who had been in it or seen it I was very skeptical because it was all recreated by emails and phones and facts then all of a sudden to see it how well interpreted it was that's very very rewarding but here it's even better because the other was a very modern lit gallery and this you come in to the darkness and then you're in the cave if you're part of a you're part of the piece in a way it's a different attitude in museums in the United States and especially in the seventies delightful to see the participation just relate to the work and interpret your own way of dealing with it I think even though today technology seems ubiquitous and repressive there's always this kind of response to the times you're in attempt to find another place you know Downey's work was a genuine response to that but also an embrace of it at the same time it was was a critique