The title of The Cave comes from the only site in the world that is sacred to both Jews and Muslims: the Cave of the Patriarchs where Abraham is buried with his descendents. The piece tells the biblical story of Abraham and his family from a contemporary perspective. Beryl Korot and Steve Reich studied the common roots of Judaism, Islam and Christianity in a series of interviews with members of these religions, asking them: Who is Abraham? And Sarah? And Hagar? Ishmael? Isaac? The answers, collected in testimonials from Israelis and Palestinians living in Jerusalem and inhabitants of New York and Austin in the United States, were recorded by the artists on video and audiotapes and provide the framework for the reflections on modern culture, religion and human relationships presented in this work.
In its exploration of the image as a process and as spatial representation, The Cave subjects language and culture to a complex sweep of images and sounds resulting from a four-year production process. Korot’s video, synchronised with Reich’s music, in which the musical group harmonises with the intonation of the interviewee’s speech, is shown on five monitors, each of which present a sequence of images from carefully edited and contrasting interviews. The formal result of these premises, the attempt to create a new musical genre using a ‘classical’ theme, is the creation of the first video-opera to date. Korot and Reich’s volition and farsightedness took them beyond the format of musical extravaganzas, which are extremely expensive and difficult to display, to video installation, which allowed them to overcome barriers and reach a broader spectrum of the public. Their desire to destroy formal and cultural boundaries led them inevitably to politics, putting their work in the eye of the hurricane of international political events. Working seriously on a historical - and apparently anachronistic - theme, they put themselves on the frontlines, far from the falsely committed ‘emotional tourism’ so often found in contemporary art exhibitions.