Art, Archaeology and Incavation

A great example of creative participatory place making is Odd Numbers – Making Myths and Milton. 

Wee Creatures

It is an ongoing public art work which has involved artist Nicola Atkinson (with Lee Ivett/Baxdendale and Love Milton Project) working with Milton, a relatively new community that does not have such a deep history as other parts of Glasgow.

One key aspect of the project has been the production of 365 clay animal figurines (wee creatures), whom members of the community have been caring for over the Christmas holiday break.  The wee creatures have just been returned to the artist and are currently on display with a wealth of other materials produced by the community, which begins a process of creating a mythical history of people and place.  There is further information about the project online, where the artist explains the philosophy of the project in more detail, but one aspect worth highlighting is the response to the relative ahistorical nature of place:

It is a provocation to create a new and alternate history and mythology that through participation will connect people with place.

Furthermore, it is striking to read that the artist is well aware of the potency of archaeological practices in contributing to creating both peoples sense of identity and place making.  The wee creatures will be purposely buried (an incavation) at Milton, creating at once an art work, archaeological site and special place for the community. The public art work Odd Numbers – Making Myths and Milton has been funded by AHRC (Connected Communities) and the University of West of Scotland.  You can see the wee creatures, and the community documentation of the emerging history of the place, for the next week at All That Is Solid, WASPS South Block: well worth having a look at.

Finally, seeing this public art work also reminded me of a strand in archaeological practice which emerged about ten years ago which involved reflection on the inter-relationships between art and archaeology.  More specifically, it reminded me of an incavation project undertaken by Cornelius Holtorf in Berlin.  This comprised the incavation of the remains of a shared meal, which subsequently became the subject of an exhibition.

Further information about Cornelius Holtorf’s archaeological incavation can be found at the project website and in the published article:

Holtorf, C J 2004 ‘Incavation-Excavation-Exhibition’ in Brodie, N & Hills, C (eds) Material Engagements: studies in honour of Colin Renfrew. MacDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge.


Community Land Art

Severn-Side Snowballs

Severn-Side Snowballs by The Snowball Gang – image from website
by kind permission of the artist

I love the spirit of this,

it is a great example of co-production,

and snowballs make it seasonal at this time of year,

but the joy is you can make snowballs all year round and contribute to a land art project.

For other examples of snowball land art and to find out how to contribute, please go to:

The Snowball Gang – A community Art Project by Sybil Edwards.

Please let me know if you send a snowball.

Now where is the paper and water…?

Scotland’s Community Heritage

Community archaeology and heritage projects in Scotland have grown remarkably in numbers in recent years.  This growth can in part be attributed to the results of the RCAHMS run project, Scotland’s Rural Past, Shorewatch by The Scape Trust, and the work of Archaeology Scotland, such as Adopt-a-Monument, together which have helped increase the capacity for community led archaeology and heritage projects.

The ways in which Scotland’s communities have been engaging with there heritage was recently explored at Scotland’s Community Heritage Conference 2012.  On the first day of the conference there was a wide range of presentations about community led archaeological and heritage project from across Scotland.  These included: the work of the Garden History Society and Angus Landscape Survey Group in recording historic elements of local landscapes; the Clyne Heritage Society on the Brora Salt Pans; excavations at Baliscate, Mull; the work of NOSAS at the Mulchaich, Ferintosh; and insights about the establishment and work of the Friends of Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust.

What became apparent very quickly, from the exhibitions and presentations on the day, was that there was a remarkable range of skills amongst the groups.  Combined with their energy and enthusiasm, it was a truly impressive and inspiring series of project results which were presented.  With a warmth and good humor amongst the conference delegates (and learning that apparently all Scottish Community Heritage Projects were fueled by cake !) it was a great day.

I really look forward to hearing more at next years conference about the successes of Scotland’s communities who are actively engaging with their archaeology and heritage.