Sightations Café

Posted on May 24, 2017


This is by far one of the most creative sessions we have ever had the opportunity to film:

Session Abstract:
Sightations is a space of exchange, where different perspectives on archaeological visualisation are displayed side by side. These are materialized in a variety of shapes and forms and in a range of media such as drawings, paintings, sculptures, films, gaming and virtual realities. Underpinning these works are ideas, statements, and stories. All intertwined with the practice or contemplation of archaeology and heritage, aiming to challenge our current perceptions of past representations and open new avenues of thought.

Although some pieces may speak for themselves, this event aims to dig deeper into the creational process. We invite all contributors and TAG delegates to join us for coffee and cakes, while we informally talk about the exhibition and get to know the participants and their work in more detail. Although Sightations’ contributors are particularly encouraged to participate, and will have the chance to specifically address their work (slots will be a maximum of 10 minutes long), the discussion is open to all those with an interest in the themes of Art, Archaeology, Digital Media, Film, Heritage, etc.

Joana Valdez-Tullett, University of Southampton; Kate Rogers, University of Southampton; Helen Chittock, University of Southampton; Grant Cox, Artasmedia; Eleonora Gandolfi, University of Southampton; and Emilia Mataix Ferrándiz, University of Southampton

Dogu-mime (Performing Art) Ken Takahashi, Yokohama History Museum, Japan

Dogu are clay figurines of the Jomon period (ca.16000-2400 calBP) which exaggerate the human image. The performance of dogu-mime entertains the audience by bringing dogu back to life using the human body. This is an attempt to visualize the ideas of the Jomon people, who made the dogu figurines, in an entertaining way. The performer is not only an archaeologist but also a mime (stage name: Hakucho- kyodai), who has been performing this dogu-mime on the streets, stages, and at museums in Japan, since 2010.

Denken mit LEGO Matthew Fitzjohn and Peta Bulmer, University of Liverpool

The title of this presentation is inspired by a LEGO product from the 1970s (Thinking with LEGO). This short presentation focuses on the use of LEGO as a medium with which to think about archaeology and visualise the past. The AHRC funded project Grand designs in Ancient Greece is using LEGO bricks to visualise archaeology from Classical Greece and to help design activities that encourage students to learn through creative collaborative play. We will share with you the motivations for working with LEGO, as well as the creative opportunities and problems that arise trying to think about and visualise archaeology with thousands of plastic bricks.

‘Danebury Environs – The Game’ experiments in map art Andy Valdez-Tullett, Historic England

Most maps produced by archaeologists are, what Lefebvre (1991) would term, ‘Representations of space’. This is a scientific space, designed, quantified and plotted, a space reproducing and reinforcing socially constructed power relations. The use of Map Art moves the space created by maps to the artistic domain of ‘Representational spaces’, a largely symbolic spatial dimension that subverts ‘representations of space.’ It is space created through reaction, resistance and reappropriation. ‘Danebury Environs – The Game’ is such subversion through map art that moves an archaeological map and the ideas it embodies from the academic milieu to engage a broader, non-academic audience.

Archaeology, Comics and Community: The Oswestry Heritage Comics Project John Swogger, Freelance

Oswestry Heritage Comics is a series of comics which I created about the history, archaeology and heritage of Oswestry, a small market town on the border between Shropshire and Powys. The comics were published this summer in a regional newspaper – the Oswestry and Border Counties Advertizer – over the course of fourteen weeks between July and October. The comics were created as part of my involvement in Heritage Open Days, and were designed to introduce historical and archaeological information about the town and surrounding area, as well as discuss issues facing local heritage sites, monuments, historic buildings and landscapes.
This presentation will briefly outline the background to my professional use of comics as a medium for visualising and presenting archaeology, history and heritage – as well as the specific practical and theoretical approaches which shaped the Oswestry Heritage Comics series. I will also discuss the subsequent development of the project beyond its initial iteration as a limited-run newspaper strip, and the implications this has for the use of comics as a visualisation and outreach medium in community-based archaeological practice.

How can we give a voice to the archaeological record? Hannah Sackett, Bath SPA University

My archaeological comics are often narrated by artefacts or individuals from the past. This short talk will look at my process in creating these narratives through word and image. I will look at the research, discussion, scripting and thumbnailing stages behind the creation of the finished comic and explore the potential of comics to convey complex academic research in an accessible and engaging form.

Time in an urban landscape: 8-10 Moorgate, in the city of London Louise Fowler, MOLA

Most site reports and publications contain an attempt to visually reconstruct the layout of the site at different points in time through a set of phase plans. However, each plan is often not something that can be said to have actually existed at any particular moment in time, but contains features that may span years, decades or even centuries. An emphasis on form over process means that evidence for the incremental acts of construction, renewal and destruction that create and define the urban landscape can be obscured. It is on densely stratified sites, such as those found in the City of London, that this loss can seem most apparent. The site at 8-10 Moorgate, within the City of London, was extensively excavated by MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) during several phases of work between 2010 and 2012, revealing several metres of stratified archaeological deposits with evidence for the occupation of the site from the 1st century AD to the present day. The work produced 5661 hand drawn plans of archaeological layers and features, which are shown simultaneously in the image on display in Sightations, in order to raise some questions about how we might look at this evidence differently.

Layered history, storied layers: Historic Environment Frameworks for the Ebbsfleet Valley Francis Wenban-Smith, University of Southampton

Historic Environment Frameworks are not intended for visual consumption. Rather, they are a curatorial tool that communicates, and enshrines, information about the heritage value of a landscape. They codify and conflate multiple layers of history, and interpretive stories. The landscape itself has an accreted history of sedimentary deposition and human activity. And superimposed upon this are storied layers of current value and interpretation, reduced to the abstraction of a single Historic Environment Framework layer. Although a somewhat nebulous concept, this HEF layer nonetheless has an aesthetic when represented visually, and also has significant societal impacts. This brief presentation complements the poster on display, where these themes are explored in a little more detail, and introduces the HEF layer as a curatorial tool of growing importance and widening practice.

Plastic Earth Eloise Govier, University of Wales Trinity Saint David

I propose to talk through the concept and evolution of the Plastic Earth artwork, and demonstrate how I have used the sculpture as a ‘thinking tool’ to explore multi-sensory engagement with the contemporary landscape. During the discussion I will highlight Ingold’s work on ‘mounds’ and ‘walking’ (2008, 2013), the material agency of plastic, and the special relationship plastic has with water. I will conclude with a brief statement about plastic archaeology.

Stone Landscape Rose Ferraby, University of Exeter

Screenprinting has allowed me to explore the layered nature of archaeological landscapes on paper. Archaeology is about peeling layers back in order to make sense of them. Screenprinting is about placing them back; choosing how much tone and emphasis to give each feature.
In ‘Stone Landscape’ I took marks and lines from a stone carving in Cumbria and slowly layered it up using earth tones. The change in colour and format lifts the small stone carving into a landscape scale. It reflects the idea that landscapes are not just out there, large and looming: they can also be found by looking in at small details and forms.

Rockburn Marjolijn Kok, Bureau Archeologie en Toekomst, Netherlands
Everything you see in the Rockburn Details drawings was there in these configurations, but it is not all there was. I made a conscious selection for a certain aesthetics, with big machine-like-objects isolated, and smaller tools in groups. I purposefully did not draw all the nails, fragments and stones. It might have been more accurate and scientific but it would make the drawings less easy to read.
Of course, I had the freedom to do so because it was not an official excavation, however, I think we should think more on how we portray things at all moments. Everything we do costs time and therefore it is a limited resource. Choices have to be made – do I put all my time into counting and measuring every single nail or do I put time into telling a visual narrative? Drawings have a long scientific traditions because they can emphasize things more selectively than photographs. In this time of interactive 3D visuals a simple drawing can be just as effective. Drawing is a conscious act of looking and we should use this skill to think about what we want to tell the audience. The drawings can be used to engage with the audience and once they are drawn in, a dialogue can begin.

#slowironbridge Coralie Acheson, University of Birmingham

As a tourist we interweave our own personal stories with the places we visit. When we visit historical sites, ‘heritage attractions’ as they are often called, our stories are layered onto the many that were already attached to that place. #SlowIronbridge is a project which reflects the ways in which heritage sites are experienced and represented by those who visit them. The most tangible manifestation of the installation is a slow film showing the progression of a walk through the World Heritage Site of Ironbridge Gorge. This is paralleled by an evolving interactive online representation of the film’s subject on social media which visitors are invited to add to themselves. The walk has been taken on new journeys, both real and imagined, and many others have added their reflections on what it makes them think and feel. As such it both reflects and mimics the ways in which tourists interact with heritage attractions and opens up new questions about what these interactions can mean. This short paper reflects on the stories the project has gathered, travelling through the journeys that this now historical and imagined walk has gone through and identifying the new questions that have emerged from it.

SERF: designing digital engagements Alice Watterson, University of Dundee; and Tessa Poller, University of Glasgow

One of the goals of the pilot digital resource for the SERF hillforts programme is to find a way to communicate the dynamic process of archaeological interpretation. Through the interface we have begun to explore representation of multiple interpretations by offering alternatives to the structures within the reconstructions themselves, and we want to develop this theme further. Representing the more ephemeral elements of the interpretive process is in itself a challenge. During the fieldwork we recorded active discussions at the trench-edge and captured interpretive sketches drawn during lively debates between the archaeologists. Presenting this material in a way which still retains the essence of this dynamic process while inviting the audience into the interpretive debate is problematic. Traditional modes of representation ask for visuals which embody a somewhat conclusive and didactic voice. How then might we use visualisation to better reflect the fluidity of the interpretive process and engage audiences more meaningfully with the ways in which the excavated evidence challenges archaeologists?

An imaginary tour of Orkney from Elsewhere, and Elsewhere from Orkney Lara Band, MOLA, CITiZAN; and David Webb, Independent Producer
The collaborative film/installation An imaginary tour of Orkney from Elsewhere, and Elsewhere from Orkney, showing in the Sightations Exhibition, was put together following participation in Map Orkney Month in 2015, Elsewhere being London. Our installation juxtaposes the two tours of the same place, one imaginary and one real. The act of mapping Orkney in London led us to places we would not normally go and to a consideration of differences and similarities between the parallel destinations; remapping in Orkney allowed for a re-examination of these ideas. The installation itself opens the way for further exploration of themes including as use, mass, materials, space, place, sound and experience. This paper looks briefly at the reasoning behind the method of mapping and presentation, the ideas it engendered and where it might go in the future.

An Ode to Hiort Richard Benjamin Allen, Oxford University

An Ode to Hiort is a walking simulator that tells the story of a survivor of a crashed Wellington Bomber MKVIII during 1943 on an island based upon the real St.Kilda in the outer Hebrides. The game started off life as a learning exercise to get to grips with the various work flows, hardware and software required to create a virtual environment using real world data and was initially inspired by the work of the Scottish Ten group at Historical Scotland. It has since then evolved into something more and seeks to not only tell an interesting story but to demonstrate what can be done “on a shoestring” using laser scanning, photogrammetry, open sourced/free software and enough time. In this talk I will briefly take you through the journey so far, the technology involved, the people that have contributed and about future developments and direction.

The Reliquary Project Jo Dacombe, University of Leicester

The Reliquary Project is the culmination of artist Jo Dacombe’s residency within the University of Leicester’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History, which began in September 2014. Dacombe worked within the Bone Laboratory, examining themes and ideas inspired by animal bones and skeletons, exploring the subject matter she encountered through the process of making art. Dacombe will discuss the themes behind The Reliquary Project works and threads that developed through different pieces, how themes informed the use of media and how the media informed the thinking process. The range of ideas she explored in a visual way included bones as material, bones as landscape, ways of “seeing” with technology, notions of mythology and sacredness, and how ways of displaying change how we value objects.

Visualising Complex Material Trajectories through Creative Ceramic Practice Christopher McHugh, University of Sunderland

Influenced by recent archaeological approaches to the contemporary past, I regard my creative practice as a proactive intervention in which otherwise unconstituted narratives of person-object interaction are materialised through the creation of enduring ceramic art objects. My work exploits the archival potential of fired clay, usually incorporating digital photographic imagery as surface decoration.
While not intended as direct visualisations of specific artefacts, my artworks often attempt to represent the complex material trajectories of particular museum collections or assemblages through a synthesis of form and contextual information. By constituting new things, this process may contribute to, as well as visualise, the archaeological record.
This will be illustrated by reference to two bodies of recent ceramic work.
The George Brown Series of porcelain vessels was made in response to the George Brown Collection of Oceanic material culture at the National Museum of Ethnology, Japan. Described as one of the most mobile collections in the world, my work attempts to represent something of this contested and convoluted history. The Setomonogatari series was made during and since an art residency in the traditional pottery community of Seto, Japan. This work explores the site’s changing materiality through a process of collage and synthesis. Abandoned plaster moulds have been reanimated through reuse, while discarded ceramic objects are repurposed and integrated into the works. These act as reminders of the tacit and often undervalued stories of person-object interaction and labour that lead to the formation of material culture.

Site over Time (Digitally Printed Cotton & Wadding) Helen Marton, Falmouth University


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