Beware This Is A Modern Art Meets Archaeology Mash Up Post.
Text reports on presentations at a conference session with interspersed images found on streets of Pilsen & Prague, Czech Republic.
Archaeology met modern art in a conference session ‘Archaeology meets modern art: artists’ approaches to prehistoric data‘ at the recent EAA in Pilsen.
The presentations included Dragos Gheorghiu’s work on Artchaeology. He presented examples of work in Romania which combined artistic modes of practice, reconstruction and experimental archaeology, and creation of digital environments which are blended to generate an augmented reality: ‘immersive transport to the past’. One such example was the reconstruction at Vadastra of a fragment of the workshop of a Roman villa rustica and associated ceramic kiln, glass kiln and iron furnace.
Artist Sebastian Walter explained the approach to the development of the Schoeppingen time-machine for the Schoppingen Art Foundation, Germany. Part art, part interpretation, part archaeological synthesis, the piece presenced the past and future at 20 locations with timespies (Zeitspione). A playful way to get people to reflect on their relationships with the town of Schoeppingen.
Curator Marko Mele discussed several art projects within the Universalmuseum Joanneum, Graz, Austria which had an archaeological component. These included ‘A cross-departmental, pan-Styrian, polyphonic project’, entitled Super Eggs, by Simon Starling & Superflex. In another, artist Sharon Lockhart, explored the The Beginning of Time in response to the palaeolithic remains from Repolust Cave. This resulted in video installation and exhibition of the finds: in part a reflection on systematic archaeological practices. Most powerful, perhaps, was the example of the installation VZPOSTAVITEV (Reestablishment), a piece outside the walls of the museum, by RHIZOM and e.d.gfrerer. It was intended to promote awareness of an exhibition in the museum ANS LICHT GEBRACHT (BROUGHT TO LIGHT), as part of a cross border Slovenia-Austria exchange project InterArch-Štajerska. The street installation comprised the creation of a sculptural piece of 1200 sandbags in the city of Maribor, Slovenia, which was due to be moved through the city on three occasions. However, the Vice Mayor of the city had the piece removed to a junk yard, which provoked protest until it was reinstated, ultimately in the form of a ‘bunker’ in front of the City Hall.
There was a great presentation by David Connolly (Connolly Heritage Consultancy) and Kate Sloan (Peter Potter Gallery) of collaborative work in the landscapes and sites of East Lothian Scotland. Much of the collaboration relates to the Lost Landscapes project which: ‘traverses boundaries between art, ecology, archaeology and local history to explore historical ways of life through the lens of contemporary art’. This has included a variety of exhibitions, such as Return to the Earth: The Poetry of Fragments, and Nicky Bird’s Archaeology of the Ordinary. The Peter Potter Gallery continues to commission striking pieces that have been informed (at least in part) by archaeology and heritage, highlighted by the current exhibition WITCH by Liz Adamson and Alexa Hare.
Archaeologist Anna Zalewska then reflected on her difficult encounter with two pieces in Poland about ‘The Archaeology of Crime’ in relation to the mass graves, such as Katyn, from the 1940’s. In one case, there was an interpretative exhibition in the streets with photographs by Piotr Krol about Bykivnia which has witnessed several episodes of archaeological investigation and exhumation. In another, case the challenging imagery of photographer Maksymilian Rigamonti presented encounters (e.g. Butterfly and the Bones) with the exhumation of victims : in part by an absence. These encounters raised issues relating to the ethics of different aesthetics and subversive practices, which were explored further in the presentation.
Then archaeologists Rebecca Younger and Kenny Brophy explored several examples of replica Stonehenges from across the world. These included the inflatable Stonehenge SACRILEGE by artist Jeremy Deller, the illegally constructed concrete Achill-henge, and the Stone Henge Aotearoa in New Zealand which was constructed to as an educational facility combining ‘modern scientific knowledge with ancient Egyptian, Babylonian, Celtic, Polynesian and Maori starlore’. They reflected on how wide ranging the appropriation has been of a four thousand years old monument to create potent places with contemporary resonances. For 76 examples see Clonehenge blog.
In a final presentation, the session organisors presented the preliminary results of interviews with six artists, Brian Graham, Markus Hofer, Louise Tait, Jeremy Deller, Paul Musgrove and Michael Jarman, about their relationship with archaeology in their practices.
All in all, an excellent and inspiring session, organised by Estell Weiss-Krejci, Edeltraud Aspӧck and Mark Hall, which clearly demonstrated the value of the ongoing conversation between archaeology and modern art.