Perhaps the best way to describe Plato’s Porno Cave is to start by explaining what it’s not: A pornographic art exhibition in a cave. Well, there is some porn—the porn glitch artwork of artist Matt Fraatz. And this porn is in a structure, but it’s really more of a teepee than a cave.
The inspiration for the show is, of course, Plato’s Republic and his model for Utopia. From there, it takes myths and archetypes found in various cultures to create a surreal, new world—a world where there are no spectators, only facilitators; where U.S currency is replaced with rocks; where loud moans reverberating from a teepee are only a minor distraction.
Confused? Good. Confusion is key to the experience. And ultimately, that’s what Plato’s Porno Cave is: An experience.
Having launched last year as a one-night-only fete, The New World is a month-long exhibition and event space with weekly film screenings and performances, all leading up to a closing performance on March 29 of the mind-blowing apocalyptic circus/play, Cirque Skeletique.
When I met PPC creators and curators Marshall James Kavanaugh and Augustus Depenbrock at Little Berlin, I was left to marvel at the bizarre remnants of the March 2 opening reception, a spectacle that took not only six months to conceptualize, but a cast and crew of more than 35 friends and friends of friends to bring to life.
“Opening night was like the Big Bang,” Marshall explains. “The programming that follows throughout the month is the rising action as this new world evolves and develops its very own culture.”
And while the things that were seen and experienced can never be seen or experienced again, the two painted a picture of the night.
Signaling their collective birth, the Time Lord greeted guests with a cake and serenaded them with “Happy Birthday.” They then entered The New World just as they entered the physical world: through the womb—a vibrant mural painted strategically around a doorway by artist Kelsey Bohlinger, who contributes several, equally provocative works to the show. Once inside, all were left to make sense of the chaos around them including, at one point, riding a motorcycle while bartering rocks for goods and services, whether it be a wild trek on the Lord of Motion’s rickshaw or an ethereal tea tincture designed by Random Tea Room’s Rebecca Goldschmidt and Zya S. Levy. You could earn more rocks by doing favors like relieving the Time Lord of his singing duties or helping the Disease Lord spread sickness. (Don’t worry, it was only whipped cream.)
Though the symbolism of worthless currency is pretty straight forward, it wound up taking on even greater significance than Marshall and Augustus imagined over the course of the night, with people not only fighting over rocks, but trading them amongst themselves. “It makes you never look at a rock the same way again,” Marshall laughs.
There was a palpable sense of pride in the pair’s voices as they talked about how the audience embraced the night’s events. Did everyone understand that the Twin Beards were a reference to the Mayan sacrifice myth? Probably not. But as Augustus notes, for every highbrow element of the show, there was something lowbrow everyone could understand. Like porn.
“The real magic happens when you put these two things up against each other,” he adds. “That’s when you hit the G-spot.”
Through March 29. Little Berlin, 2430 Coral St. littleberlin.org
Calendar: March 25-April 1
PW's 2015 Philly Spring Guide