Cueva Archillas

first installation - February 5, 2012





"The cave exhibition pollutes nature directly with art. Cave men ruined pristine underground natural environments with absurd and poorly drawn images from their psychological landscape of false gods and hungry bellies. Perhaps nothing has changed. The cave exhibition hits the red reset button on three dimensional space, and reamends the rights of artists to make mistakes, currently, on the same order of magnitude as cave men: forever. This exhibition is about the future of cave art, not the past. Cave art will become a trend, and the best artists will rush to show in caves. This is only possible because of the internet, which will allow far flung caves (and caverns) to reach the market. Shipping will be done by hovercraft and transporter beams. Artists will move away from cities in droves, massing at the caves with the most action and the best drinks."

*Negras, Piedras. When Body Art Becomes Contemporary: The Influence of Psilocybin Infused Barillitos Rum on the Early 21st Century Avant Garde in Barceloneta. New York: Ramiken Crucible, 2015.


photo of Juni Figueroa by Gretchen Ruiz

Conflict is the purpose of the cave exhibition. It has been proposed that conflict was the dynamic behind the first art forms produced by homo sapiens in caves.

From The Mind in the Cave, by David Lewis-Williams (2002):

"I believe that it was a conflictual scenario of social divisions, perceptively prefigured by Max Raphael, that was the dynamic behind the efflorescence of Upper Palaeolithic art. When Laming-Emperaire and Leroi-Gourhan developed the mythogram component of Raphael's ideas at the expense of his social emphasis, they led Upper Palaeolithic art research down a functionalist avenue, one that emphasizes the 'beneficial' effects of image-making by claiming that images facilitated extended inter-group co-operation, intra-group cohesion, information-exchange, the resolution of binary oppositions, and so forth. The reality was, I argue, more complex and much less comfortable. It was not 'beauty' or an 'aesthetic sense' that was burgeoning at the beginning of the Upper Palaeolithic but rather social discrimination. Art and ritual may well contribute to social cohesion, but they do so by marking off groups from other groups and thus creating the potential for social tensions. It was not co-operation but social competition and tension that triggered an ever-widening spiral of social, political, and technological change that continued long after the last Neanderthal had died, indeed throughout human history."


Lewis-Williams goes on to track the connections between shamanism and cave-painting, proving that long before Jim Morrison, huge dickheads roamed the earth, pretending to have mastered spiritual consciousness in order to bask in the warmth of social recognition.

The cave is located on private land owned by the Archilla family. At this time the cave exhibition organization team has had no contact with the owners of the cave. The cave is far removed from roads, and the trail leading to the cave is not marked.

"Graciany Miranda Archilla was a poet, journalist and essayist, and co-founder of an important literary movement. He was born in Morovis, Puerto Rico on June 2, 1908, the sixth of nine children of Francisco Miranda, a businessman, and his wife Celsa Archilla, a writer of poetry and fiction. Miranda Archilla developed a talent for writing and an interest in literature as a young boy. When he was twenty years old, he moved to San Juan to be near the Ateneo Puertorriqueño, where poets and writers gathered, and to hone his craft as a poet. In 1928, he joined fellow poets Clemente Soto Vélez, Alfredo Margenat, and Fernando González Alberty to found a new poetic movement called Atalaya de los diosesAtalayismo, as it came to be known, became one of the most debated of the vanguard movements and also proved to be one of the most prolific. The Grupo Atalaya of which Miranda Archilla formed a part were deliberately outrageous young men sporting long hair and wild clothing and adopting strange pseudonyms. Their intent was to revolutionize Puerto Rican poetry by breaking with decades of romanticism both in content and form. Theirs was to be a different kind of lyric poetry using new themes, imagery, and rhythms. The Grupo Atalaya expressed a need for a more socially conscious and politicized poetry. During the 1930s, under the influence of the charismatic leader of the Nationalist Party, Pedro Albizu Campos, the Atalayistas' writings began to manifest nationalistic tendencies and to incorporate the Nationalists' ideology. As Puerto Rico's political climate became increasingly repressive, Miranda Archilla migrated to New York City with his wife in search of better job opportunities as well as a more open political environment. Once in the city, he began working as the director of the Sunday section ofel diario/La Prensa, the principal Spanish language paper in New York. Using the pseudonym Oscar Blanco, Miranda Archilla wrote numerous articles for Vanguardia Betances where he reaffirmed his strong support for Puerto Rican independence from the United States."

(from The Graciany Miranda Archilla Papers, Archives of the Puerto Rican Diaspora, Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, Hunter College, CUNY)

photo of miranda archilla

Some embankments on either side of the trail close to the cave suggest defensive earthworks. Christopher Rivera has suggested that these earthworks could have been constructed by Puerto Rican freedom fighters who lived in the mountains in the center of the island.

The cave hosts various species, including the Amblypygi, also known as the Whip Spider, or Whip Scorpion, or Tailless Whip Scorpion. The Amblypygi can be very large, with a flat body and six legs. Two "whips", which can reach lengths up to 25 centimeters, sweep along the direction of locomotion. These whips act as sensors for prey, like small frogs, insects, and bats. Once prey is located, the Amblypygi captures the victim with two large spear studded pedipalps, ripping it apart for digestion. In Puerto Rico this creature is known as the Guabá.

This Guabá lives inside Archilla's Cave.


On the right side of the Rotunda is a painting of a framed net identifiable as a sports goal. Rendered in spray paint, the goal is scaled to the size of the flat area in front of the goal. This indicates that the goal was not merely symbolic, and that the goal could have been used in short sided matches of futbol or soccer. The painting of the netting suggests a spatial warp, a fact which lends to the argument made by David Lewis-Williams in his book The Mind in the Cave that the cave wall as surface for painting is perceived by artists as a permeable membrane. This membrane, accessed through altered states of consciousness, is modelled by forms of entoptic phenomena common to the human nervous system as a species. The netting in this painting suggests that soccer balls could fly through the cave wall into another dimension.

Juni Figueroa

Another example of this interaction with the rock surfaces exists near the opening in the Apse, close to the rock pedestal called the Pulpit. Rainbow hues of pigment made with dyed mineral calcite have been used to shade the rock surfaces. As the light from the sun shines through the opening of the Apse at different angles througout the day, the colored shadings change the perception of the contours of the rock. By altering the topography of the perceptible rock surface, the artist suggests that the rock itself is malleable. In many other cave art and rock art sites around the world, documented artworks from human antiquity depict bison or horses emerging from flint outcroppings, stalagmites, and stalactites. The important similarity between those cave paintings and these cave shadings is that there was an interaction between the shape of the rock and the image-maker.

Esther Kläs

Consistent with anthropological studies of other cave shelter sites, people appeared to have deliberately left special objects inside the cave.

For example, a newspaper from the day of the American moon landing was placed upon a rock outcropping approximately two feet above the ground. However, rather than having been installed in some way that would suggest the record of this event was to be preserved, the newspaper is covered with aviary fecal matter, with suggests that the newspapper from this historical event was placed in a pet bird cage as a toilet pad for the animal, and then was removed for placement in the Archillas Cave. It has been suggested that the artist may have discovered the errror of using the paper as a toilet pad, and simply made the best of a bad situation; however, the large headline and image on the front of the paper suggest a deeper interaction, perhaps something bordering on anger towards the newspaper representation. This object is located inside a large vaulted chamber with several bat nests that we will henceforth call the Moon Chamber.

Elaine Cameron-Weir

Other examples of objects left behind point to a wide variety of human activity that appear to have taken place in the Archillas Cave. There is evidence that other artworks were installed or produced in the cave, but I have chosen to focus on the objects that remain in the cave.

Concrete casting materials in the floor of the Apse, behind the Pulpit.

Ajay Kurian

Large polyethylene tarps hung from the wall of the Apse.

Borden Capalino

Flexible screen, hung from the ceiling of the Moon Chamber. The screen has a large, shaded smear of plaster across the top quarter.

Ben Schumacher

Printed paper trash scattered across the Rotunda floor and leading into the Moon Chamber. These materials document the existence of a prostitution ring that caters to a specific fetish for illiterate, Paleolithic escorts.

Andra Ursuta

A small face attached to a loose rock located in the Diverticule of the Guabá.

Candice Lin

A large circle is carved into a rock face at the back of the Apse, facing the sunlight from the entrance. The carved circle straddles a cleft in the rock through which a person can pass. Is this a literalized version of the cave wall as permeable membrane?

Christopher Rivera


An apparent joke has been made of "WET PAINT" signs, in something resembling contemporary art, but squeezed out in between now and not. This piece is the only object in the cave that treats the walls as a solid surface.

Andy Meerow