Whatever you think about early twentieth century modernism, it had a big impact on the art world. There are many reasons posited for why the movement kicked off, from the horrors of the First World War, the rise in new technologies, and the radical change in social norms.
Yet this does not explain how sculpture changed more in twenty years than in the last two thousand. Why one of mankind’s first celluloid impulses was to film ants pouring from hands and cows walking up stairs. Why paintings shifted from faces with two noses to a dozen abstract lines.
We have we found out modernism’s origins. We don’t know which artist discovered the cave, and how they found out in the first place. But we do know what they discovered.
The cave is not much bigger than a post office. Wear shoes so the rocks don’t slice your feet open. You wade up to the waist in warm sea water down a tunnel seemingly longer than the island itself. Sounds crunch and echo in a way that ignore physics. Coloured lights party on the ceiling. Tiny fish dance past your ankles, unaware of their place in artistic creation.
Your keep wading until the water falls out from underneath you, and the light shines all around. Because the best ideas are a bit further in. You head will fill with concepts, filed straight into your brain like music.
Who know what would have happened if this cave had been discovered a few centuries earlier? We will never know what the state of our art would be today.
A final thought. Remember this cave is just as much part of the world as anything else. So any abstract work made from thoughts in the cave is as much a representation as a part of any reality as the pictures of Victorian landscapes, with their fields of corn against the sunset. Only this reality is Nadada.