Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” describes a group of people who have lived in shackles all of their lives, facing a blank wall. They watch shadows projected on the wall by things passing in front of a fire behind them, and the shadows are as close as the prisoners get to viewing reality. Plato then explains how we should strive to break free of these shackles and come to understand that the shadows on the wall aren’t real.
Today, our shackles are our screens, our shadows – the media.
The centerpiece of Brophy’s Summit on Masculinity mirrors Plato’s allegory of the cave. With three gallery walls comprised of eighteen rotating pictures that depict images of masculinity and femininity through the medium of advertising. Where the observer stands to view these images lie shackles on the ground.
The summit’s artistic rendering of Plato’s allegory engages a student body who have been immersed in media their entire lives. They view images on computers, televisions, phones and magazines projecting airbrushed perfection and calling it reality. Through the course of the summit, we hope the students will develop a framework to critique these images not only for their content but also for the manner in which they are produced and proliferated.
While all art is open to interpretation by the viewer, our hope is that this display in the mall throughout the summit will hopefully encourage the students to break the shackles, turn around and search for authenticity.