Both without and within: Cave Exploration as a Guide to Knowledge Making

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Below our feet is a complex and shifting terrain that is often overlooked; there is still
surprisingly little known about the subterranean landscape within the body of the earth. You can never get to the bottom of it. This practice based research project draws on encounters with three different types of cave in order to consider how to sit with the unknown and the unresolvable: The Ice Cave on the Mer de Glace, Chamonix; Aach Spring cave network near to Konstanz; and Mother Shipton’s Cave in North Yorkshire. As starkly different asthese sites are, they all engaged with three key themes: Permeability; reconsidering notions of boundary within the cave. Non-fixity; the cave as a site that is resistant to definition and certainty. Material Encounter; the sensory and embodied nature of engaging with cave spaces.
This thesis is designed in a format that represents a cave system, it is built up of connected but paradoxical caves that sit within the perimeter of the diagram that you will find at the entrance. There is no specific order in which the work should be encountered, like a cave system, you can take a number of routes through the research. Within the body of research you will find three main chapters that respond to each of the cave sites, you will find three shorter texts that are intended to be ‘connecting tunnels’, they are vignettes capturing significant moments within the period of study: an interview with artist Una Hamilton Helle discussing her work in the context of Live Action Role Play and Choose Your Own Adventure novels, an account of 60 hours spent at a Darkness Retreat in Germany, and a story about Boston Aquarium in the USA. There are original images at the start of each of the texts that have been produced during the course of the project, these are explored further
in four sketchbooks documenting the exhibitions and supporting artwork produced alongside the writing. The act of thinking with caves and sitting with the unknown correlates with the way in which the artwork for this project has been produced; the project uses practice based research to engage with cave spaces and considers how this approach intersects with the current creative turn in geography and the emerging field of the Geohumanities. Reading this thesis is intended to evoke the act of navigating a cave; the writing inhabits the form of the subterranean network.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Hawkins, Harriet, Supervisor
  • Squire, Rachael, Advisor
Award date1 Oct 2022
Publication statusUnpublished - 2023

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