IC - Week 4 - 'Do we really live in Plato's cave?'

I came to England from Poland almost ten years ago. I work in a big organisation and I am meeting many people in that professional environment everyday. As long as the conversation is about the work related subjects I am fine and comfortable but exactly opposite when the informal, casual chatting is kicking off. It is partially because I have never learned English properly and I simply sometimes don't understand words, but on most occasions I just don't understand the context.

There are so many references to the shared cultural background in the normal, casual conversations - about movies, books, historical events, habits, customs. I just don't get it. I lived in a different 'cave' for most of my life.

It is all the same in regards to the photographic images too. Because my knowledge about the English culture, common customs and believes is limited and because I am not up to date with the popular social and political events I don't understand many images with references to those facts.

I remember when I read the George Orwell's 'Nineteen Eighty-Four'. in English (when I was finally able to do that about eight years ago) and soon after watched, totally by accident, the Terry Gilliam's film 'Brazil' about the dystopian vision of the future society; I was so amazed by the fact that I wouldn't have a clue about the reminiscence to Orwell's novel. Since then there was a lot of other situations when I could recognise the references - I would totally missed them if I have never had read the 'Nineteen Eighty-Four'.

The references from the current and historical events, social and cultural facts or art history are very common in art photography.

The works of artists like Zbigniew Libera  ("Positives" series), Tom Hunter ('Woman Reading Possession Order'), Jeff Wall 'A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai)' are only those examples which cross my mind first.

We do live in Plato's cave. We assume others understand us because they live similar lives but in fact, even those very close to us have their own 'caves'.

Not taking part actively in the social and cultural life means a lack of understanding and in a result miss-communication on many levels.