Past Inspired Sculpture 1

I have long had an interest in sculpture in the public domain.  Often created as part of new developments or as urban regeneration schemes, it has always struck me how many pieces appear to reference elements of the past: whether intentionally or unintentionally ?

Indeed Professor Andrew Patrizio has discussed in an excellent book, Contemporary Sculpture in Scotland, the relationship between the history of Scottish sculpture, the metaphor of archaeology and excavation, and the historical / archaeological narratives of Scotland’s past.

In this respect, one of my favourite pieces, which overtly (re)presents aspects of the past is First Conundrum by artist Remco de Feuw.  Key elements of the piece are scaled up versions of Neolithic carved stone balls. These are enigmatic objects from Scotland, at least 4500 years old, and are often described as sitting comfortably in the palm of a hand…unlike the monumental ones above !

It would be great to hear about other examples of past inspired sculpture…


Building Living Pasts

There is another type of heritage site which are more intentionally active components of the landscape, which can also allow us to creatively explore aspects of the past, and that is the archaeological reconstruction.

There is a long tradition of reconstructing archaeological sites.  In some cases, this may involve building up from excavated original wall footings to create a more substantial experience of how a building may have looked and felt in the past.  In other cases, archaeological reconstructions are built on the basis of the aggregated evidence from a range of sites, creating something more broadly characteristic of a type of monument or building.

One striking example can be found at Lilli-Bakki Farm, Iceland.  Here there is an exquisite reconstruction of a Viking age turf and wooden church in a circular turf enclosure: perfect for its landscape setting.  This example was built for the East Iceland Heritage Museum in Egilsstaðir as part of an international exchange.  The building and its enclosure shows a range of heritage skills, such as building walls and roofing in turf, woodworking and carpentry, and stone working. The building is thus a product of its broader landscape, composed of traditional materials such as turf, stone and (drift) wood.

I also love the fact that the materials left over from the reconstruction of the church were then used to create a sculptural Viking longship.  According to the stone craftsman on the team, the mast of the ship was constructed of a 300 year old piece of driftwood….!

A great example of a creative blend of archaeology and landscape.

Landscapes Past, Landscapes Present

I was reflecting on the ways in which we encounter the past in the landscape.  Some times we carry it with us, through our preconceptions about a particular landscape or our knowledge of its history: we find what we are looking for ?

Other times, a landscapes pastness is often encountered through stumbling across archaeological sites: forgotten mounds of earth, piles of stone, roofless empty buildings…

It is easy therefore to consider such sites as simply testimonies of times past: to see them as dead and no longer really part of a functioning landscape.

However, when you visit many archaeological sites, if you look closely, you will see the different ways in which plants and animals continue to interact with them: nettles growing on the locations of middens at old settlements, lichens and mosses growing more on the north side of prehistoric standing stones, birds creating nests in walls, rabbits colonizing mounds…

In a sense, no matter how fragmented, damaged or forgotten archaeological sites are they are still always actively part of the landscape. Perhaps, we just need to look at the past differently… ?

Heritage Landscapes of the Future

Heritage and landscape were discussed at the EAA conference in Helsinki in the session Archaeology and Landscape: Integrated Research and Common Good.

With the launch of the Network for Archaeology and Integrated Landscape Research there was a wide discussion about the role of archaeology and heritage in creating future landscapes.

There were presentations about practices and projects from England, Greece, Estonia, Malta, Sweden, Rome, Sicily, Finland and Scotland.  These studies stimulated discussions amongst participants about how the past elements of landscapes could be used creatively in visions for the future.

A Multitude of Marble Hands

As you enter Kiasma, Helsinki, there is a ‘Visitor’s Book’ which you are invited to sign creatively. The ‘book’ is a simple marble slab.  But the slab is potent with meaning and heritage as it is from Mount Penteli, Greece: the same stone as the Acropolis is built from.

This is no written piece however, as by placing your hand on it you wear a microscopic quantity of stone away.  In time a multitude of hands will leave an impression in the stone.

A simply wonderful piece by artist Hannele Rantata.

Waymarkers: a creative heritage


Finally had a chance to see the Harland Way waymarkers in Govan by artist Matt Baker.  These pieces have enhanced the urban landscape and are a great example of artistic practices informed by the rich texture of the past.

Amongst the pieces are several granite sets originally from a quayside of the ship yards which were once here. These stones wedges have been inscribed with images relating to the history of Govan and then anchored, ship like, with substantial chains rooted to the ground of Govan. Several of the stones have marks and holes on their surfaces which reveal their previous lives…

Another great of example of creativity in Govan, and another good reason to explore its rich heritage.

Cityscape Heritage Interpretation

Only spotted this yesterday for the first time in York.  Aspects of its scientific heritage are being presented in creative ways as part of a York Science and Innovation Grand Tour.

At sixty locations in the city there are QR coded signs with striking images which explain how scientific techniques have helped inform our understanding of different places within the city.  Time to explore further…

Landscape of Rocks and Giants

Landscape and heritage are found in combination at the World Heritage site of Sammallahdenmaki, Finland.  Here are found over thirty cairns dating to the Bronze Age, which had been constructed along the ridges of rock on what was once an Island. They are now set within woodland, rich in lichens and legends.

One cairn is said to be the result of a competition between people and giants…! The cairns comprise both rounded and angular stone. The rolled stones probably came from the beaches below, the angular stone may have been split by people from the living rock. Destruction and creativity ?

Creativity and Heritage Below Ground

Heritage and creativity are successfully combined at Aboa Vetus and Ars Nova.  Above ground are contemporary gallery spaces, below ground the basements of 15thcentury houses.

The displays show a great deal of creativity, not least The Story of the Four Unlucky Piglets...