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Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Mr Takashi Sakamoto

Contact Mr Takashi Sakamoto

Academic Background

BA : Osaka University of Arts, Japan.
I studied contemporary art and art planning. The project for a bachelor’s degree was a series of self-portrait work “Revealing the story, forming my image”. I attempted to explore a point overlapped by “objective self” which emerges in a relationship with others and “subjective self” which can be underpinned by pain.
MA Archaeology (Distinction): Durham University
My masters degree dissertation, Upper Palaeolithic Cave Art as Multisensory Interactive Installation Art: Analysis of Human-Art-Environment triad, was awarded Fenwick Prize (Durham University). In this dissertation, I interpreted European cave art as an installation art and examined the mechanism that how cave environmental art installs a viewer into it.

Research Topic

European Upper Palaeolithic Cave Art: Multisensory interaction between humans and the cave environment and its impact on the production and use of art.


My PhD research seeks the reason why cave art produced in caves. For this purpose, I examine the interrelation between human, art and the environmental properties of cave.
In 140 years of the history of European cave art research, archaeologists have attempted to reveal the purpose of production and how it was done, and accordingly, several interpretations have been proposed by researchers from different point of views (e.g. ethnography, structuralism, prehistoric archaeology, cognitive science, and so on). However, why was cave art produced in caves? This simple question still fails to reach a sufficient explanation. In fact, unique environmental properties of cave such as darkness, silence, resonance and unpredictable topography of floors are well known, and human abnormal experience in such a characteristic space is often emphasized; Inside of a cave is filled with unusual stimuli constantly addressing to human multisensory organs. Given this, it can be hypothesized that these novel environmental characteristics are responsible for the nature of cave art. 

As a starting point to examine above hypotheisis, I adopt following two concepts:
・ Installation art
・ Affordance

The main concern of these concepts is an interaction between an actor (human or animals) and an environment; installation art is an art format of contemporary art which aims to install human in environmental art and change them into an active participant from a passive consumer of mere visual information, and affordance refers to the possible actions that an environment offers to (or affords) an actor. Naturally, being in a cave, human are forced to interact with the surrounding (e.g. unusual way of body use, reduced vision or heightened sense of audition and touch). Taking account of this, it can be considered taht visual aspect of cave art is only a part of “installation art of cave” and that affordance from environmental elements of cave contributed to the production of cave art.
From the starting point of these concepts, I aim to develop a formal system for the examination of the spatial characteristics of caves and the human multisensory interaction with them and their art in this novel environment. I will argue that it is essential to see cave art as a human-art-environment triad, and by so doing I hope to demonstrate that significant interaction occurred between Upper Palaeolithic cave art and its Palaeolithic viewers, and that this interactivity relates to its specific value, that is that within the human-art-environment triad, viewers became bodily installed within the art and were thus turned into active participants. In order to explore this, I will address cave art from three different points of view: the human-cave interaction without artistic content; the execution of art; and holistic use of cave art. I will then deconstruct exactly how the multisensory environment of the cave impacted on each."

Research Groups