Another filmed TAG session:
Session Abstract: Building on recent TAG sessions exploring the interplay between art and archaeology [’Between the Arts and Archaeological Interpretation’ (2014) and ‘Archaeology with Art: Space, Context, Fabrication, Gesture (2013)], this session seeks to explore the complexities involved when artists and archaeologists collaborate on a specific project. Artists have long been inspired by the form of archaeological remains but more recently artists have been finding conceptual stimuli and synergies in the research archaeologists undertake, fuelling innovative art pieces. What are the concepts, technologies and artefacts which contemporary artists are responding to and why? What processes are involved when artist[s] and archaeologist[s] work together? Can collaborative projects benefit both parties? Are the expectations of archaeologists and artists difficult to reconcile, for example, are archaeologists expecting their research or findings to be ‘illustrated’ and if so, is this
crippling to the artist? How can an artist meet the funding requirements of the archaeologist researcher and yet ensure that their work remains true to their own creative vision and relevant for their own time? To what extent can an archaeologist artist/artist archaeologist address these issues? These are some of the questions to be explored in a session welcoming representatives from artist and archaeologist project partnerships or from archaeologist artists / artist archaeologists.
Session organiser: Kate JOHNSON (University of Bradford)
Imaging time in the fine art/archaeology interface
Using rock as a metaphor for compressed time, my first MA exhibition consisted of three pieces of work showing the progress in my thinking as I took rock, and references to Welsh slate, as my starting point. This was “work on paper and canvas, drawing on resonances from the disciplines of archaeology, geology and cosmology that concentrate on the idea of ‘flow’.” For my second MA exhibition I focused in on mark-making that specifically related to time as a concept. I exhibited only one piece, a work made up of twenty four wood panels with the title ‘Augustine’s Clock’. By this time, my attention was on the simplest mark, the pared down symbolism of the vertical line, a way of marking the passing of time that has been in use since the earliest days of human existence. How will my PhD investigations impact on the way in which we work across the art/science divide? Is there scope for working with ideas that emerge from the Fine Art / Archaeology interface, for both archaeologists and artists? How will the pursuit of the archaeological imagination impact on the image that prehistory in particular has in the public consciousness? Is it possible to make a useful contribution to an understanding of archaeological sites through Fine Art practice? These are the questions I intend to pose as I enter the debate about Archaeology and Fine Art, from the point of view of a Fine Artist.
Carmen MILLS (Aberystwyth University)
The Pallasboy Project
The Pallasboy Project aims to explore craft and creativity and the connections between past and present, by practical experiment, using the skills of contemporary master woodworker Mark Griffiths to carve a replica of the ‘Pallasboy Vessel’. Mark, who has experience in remaking historical artefacts, carried out the work at UCC using hand tools, comparing replica Iron Age tools and contemporary equivalents. Brian Mac Domhnaill recorded this work, focusing on the visual, aural and textural details of both object and process. Also of interest was the incidental and previously unrecorded aesthetics and associated effect of the crafting process, both for the maker and observers. The documentation strategy was to be thorough and functional, with scope for development throughout the project, responding to processes of interest. In keeping with the practice of the project artist, the resulting archive of photographs and video footage will be scrutinised, edited and distilled into independently valid artistic output that will serve to engage the general public on an aesthetic and experiential level.
Benjamin GEAREY and Brian MACDOMHNAILL (University College, Cork, Ireland)
The Maker’s Mind: a perfect circularity
Underpinning my own interdisciplinary practice and reiterated in my teaching, is the reassuringly recursive creative cycle. Approaching this subject from a pedagogic perspective, it becomes clear that the creative process encourages problem solving and fosters divergent ways of thinking. It can encourage the combination of materials through experimentation, the construction of new ways of seeing and of progressive material exploration. Learning about materials and processes are central and considered to be vital in developing an ability to manifest ideas, however a focus upon the purely technical or research alone, can lead to a diminished and inadequate view. As a maker and practice led researcher, I aim to foster a degree of control and familiarity with these core principles of making, however in addition I conceptualise, contextualise, develop designs and reflect both in and on my actions. I examine how this process might be applied when reinterpreting objects and fragments from Prehistory. By focusing upon a site inhabited for over 5000 years, now the home of Cornwall’s combined universities, I borrow and abstract meaning from ancient fragments in order to create contemporary indicators. Using traditional and digital technologies, I reinterpret notions of ‘the domestic’ in archaeology.
Helen MARTON (Falmouth University)
Crafting contemporary heritage: perception, performance and thinking with greenwood
This discussion draws on the experiences of woodcarving in London throughout the last eighteen months and offers an insight into craft that is lived, as opposed to constituting an abstract, disembodied category of objects, techniques and people. With anthropological approaches to design and materiality, we will explore how social constructs such as ‘heritage’ form as by-products of making. Drawing on Gell (1999), Ingold (2000; 2012; 2013) and Sansi (2014) we will attempt to deconstruct categories of both practice and interpretation. In practice we, as craftsmen, are defined and categorized by skills and knowledge, and it is up to those who acquire, circulate and study material culture to interpret our wares how they will. In this light I will become your informant; offering explanations into the technologies and artefacts I am inspired by. By exploring body technique, phenomenological approaches to making and the things we surround ourselves with, we will see that ‘heritage’ and ‘innovation’ arise a different sides of the same coin – as dynamic, reflexive interpretations of the materials of thought. This is mirrored by the blurring of distinctions between art and archaeology, everyday life and anthropology, perception and performance. Using the work of Norwegian photographer Anders Beer Wilse as an analogy we shall see that, with time, artists like Wilse indirectly become the anthropologists of their day; capturing moments in culture as it duly unfolds. The past is unfixed and highly dependent on how we think with it and, by this merit, so is heritage. My own work explores this every time I pick up my tools.
Gell, A. (1999) The art of anthropology. London: The Athlone Press.
Ingold, T. (2013) Making: anthropology, archaeology, art and architecture. London:
* (2012) No more ancient; no more human: The future past of archaeology and
anthropology. In Shankland, D. et al. Archaeology and anthropology. Past, present and
future. London: Berg, 77 – 89.
* (2000) The perception of the environment: essays in livelihood, dwelling and skill. London:
Sansi, R. (2015) Art, anthropology and the gift. London: Bloomsbury Academic
Mike GROVES (UCL)
Art as data: Studying corpses by drawing them
Artists’ reconstructions of graves and funeral scenes are widely used in museum and heritage centres as well as academic presentations and publications. While such artworks are readily employed to support the presentation of archaeological information, their analytical and interpretive capacities are often overlooked. This paper addresses the potentials of treating art as data, drawing examples from my current research on corpse positioning in early Anglo-Saxon England. Over 2000 skeletons are reimagined and drawn as corpses. Every single drawing of a body is effectively a piece of artwork, which requires a creative interpretation of the grave plan informed by taphonomic and anatomical knowledge. By envisioning the body fleshed, this process of artistic rendering addresses a multiplicity of information about the grave, including the weight of the body, clothing, the visuality of the grave, the logistics of positioning the corpse, and the emotive implications of the funeral. Drawings can be combined, compared, and contrasted to assess patterns and change in funerary practices. Meanwhile, each drawing is ultimately an interpretation, with its own temperament and influenced by the style of the original plan as well as the reconstruction artist’s state of mind. Finally, addressing the definitions of data and art, this paper entertains thoughts on the innovative use of art in contributing to archaeological
Sian MUI (University of Durham)