i s r f
b u l l e t i n
Site Responsive Archaeology Between Place, Things, and People
Edited by Dr James Dixon
i s r f
b u l l e t i n
Site Responsive Archaeology Between Place, Things, and People
First published March 2018 Copyright ÂŠ 2018 Independent Social Research Foundation
TABLE OF CONTENTS
FROM THE DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH
NO EDGES: ARCHAEOLOGY, EXCAVATION AND LANDSCAPE
THE CUBE: A CINEMA ARCHAEOLOGY
MATERIALITY, CREATIVE RESPONSES AND REACHING DIFFERENT UNDERSTANDINGS OF KILMAINHAM GAOL IN DUBLIN
REASSEMBLING THE PAST
A RESPONSE FROM MARILYN STRATHERN
A RESPONSE FROM NISHAT AWAN
EDITORIAL Dr. James Dixon Honorary Research Associate, Department of Geography, Royal Holloway University of London
his edition of the ISRF Bulletin is about archaeology. You will have a picture in your mind of what archaeology is, what it looks like. This may be a little different. The papers in this volume stem from those margins of archaeology that seek to do something more with archaeological practice than those perhaps more easily recognisable processes of excavation, analysis and formal reporting of objects, sites and landscapes. Archaeology has developed over its history – about a century as a formal academic discipline, much longer as a field pursuit – a strongly practical approach to understanding the relationship between people and things over time. It involves excavating, surveying, drawing, measuring, and it also involves interpretation, writing, reporting, documenting, archiving, public engagement and the dissemination of findings. These are, alone or combined, the things we do and make, and it is the making and the doing of these things that makes us archaeologists. As well as archaeological practice – whether physical or mental – there are archaeological sites. An archaeological site may be a hole in the ground or it may be a whole landscape. In common with other social sciences, the sites of archaeology may also be discursive and archaeologists are increasingly developing work with relevance to contemporary political debates. Here, that archaeological principle of working out from a solid, physical evidence base is applied to wider issues such as homelessness, local and global material networks, or urban regeneration. Typically, within this wider idea of where the results of our work are situated, the places and spaces we work in are our archaeological sites, and it is in and on sites that we do archaeology. The notion of ‘site-responsive archaeology’ seems counter-intuitive. Don’t we always respond to whatever we find wherever we look? Well,
yes. But we do it using, for the most part, a suite of tried and tested practical, scientific and interpretive methods, applied as necessary. In short, we arrive on site with an idea of what we are going to do there, and because we have that idea, we also have partially-formed ideas of what the outcomes of our work will be; perhaps not the exact content of the report, for instance, but that there will be one, structured in a particular way. Truly site-responsive archaeology assumes that this may not be enough. Archaeological sites all exist in the contemporary world and archaeological engagement with any place will reveal something of the politics of that site today. To be site-responsive as an archaeologist is to allow a site to dictate the progress of its own investigation. Firstly, this dictation will be about subjects and politics; the difference between what you thought this site meant in the contemporary world and what it turns out to mean when you start looking at it in detail and talking to people about it. Approaching a contemporary space as an archaeologist â&#x20AC;&#x201C; or from any other discipline for that matter â&#x20AC;&#x201C; it often becomes clear that there are certain things that space, or place, and its people need or want. If we decide to help, there may be ways that we can do so with archaeology alone, but we might also need to change our archaeology or ally it with other practices in order to help turn our objective investigation into a more subjective intervention. After that, it becomes about practice and how we deal with those different politics and needs, which may not feel at first like archaeological concerns, for any number of reasons. Ultimately, site-responsive archaeology promotes a freedom to employ an archaeological practice that borrows heavily from other disciplines and that, at times, doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t look like archaeology at all. There are lots of ways to engage in site-responsive archaeology which, to some degree, all relate to multi- and inter-disciplinary working and thinking, whether or not this is overt. Multi-disciplinary work can be so because it is collaborative or because an individual is consciously working between different bodies of theory and practice. In the context of site-responsive archaeology, and of this volume, the importance of multi-disciplinarity is perhaps best expressed as the confidence to experiment; to knowingly go beyond the traditional bounds of your discipline as suits the needs of your site and its people.
************ This volume will demonstrate the successes of thinking in a siteresponsive way as an archaeologist. The four papers presented here all show experiments in going beyond the traditional boundaries of archaeological practice as fits the needs of a particular site. All have resulted in doing something more through these multi-disciplinary, experimental, creative archaeologies. We start with Oscar Aldred’s thoughts on how sites affect archaeologists and how we might work differently, bringing other disciplines and non-archaeological forms of representation to site to better reflect the durational experiences of being an archaeologist in the field. We then move to Bristol and Angela Piccini’s discussion of a recent project using an experimental archaeology workshop to work out what a popular cultural space means in advance of its alteration. Laura McAtackney’s work at Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin juxtaposes a graffiti survey with her own participation in a performance work, bringing the two together in creating new public understandings of what is a traditional heritage site. Finally, Chris McHugh, a ceramic artist with a background in archaeology, approaches the declining ceramic production town of Seto in Japan with an archaeological approach to analysis, but with his own artworks as the result. ************ Site-responsive archaeology could be theorised ad nauseam and I am close to that point here. Suffice it to say that in addition to all the traditional pursuits of any discipline, there are ways of using those established practices and ways of thinking to do other things. Sometimes, those things involve intervention in the contemporary world. Sometimes, they need to be enhanced, or allied with other disciplines. Always, we learn more from experimenting than from not experimenting.
DR. LOUISE BRADDOCK
FROM THE DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH Dr. Louise Braddock
ithout having had any input into the choice of topic for this Bulletin, itself the successful outcome of inviting James Dixon as guest editor, I am struck by the marked parallels with psychoanalysis. In the issue he has compiled here we see a number of shifts in method and metatheory: the shift ‘back to the present’; the necessarily interpretive dimension of observation; the shift to interaction as the mode of engagement with the ‘object’ of study. These are, doubtless, shifts that are part of a more general epistemological re-orientation in the human and social sciences; at the same time, the parallels with psychoanalysis are intriguing. It was James Symonds, whose archaeological thoughts closed the ISRF’s last Annual Workshop and whose voice then reappeared in the ensuing Bulletin, who drew my attention to a similarity that archaeologists perceive with psychoanalysis or, more precisely, with psychotherapy conceived on classical lines as the interpretive un-doing of the effects of the repressed, the lost or hidden past, on present behaviour. The word ‘classical’ also reflects the fact that from the outset Freud incorporated and indeed partly built his psychology around the metaphor of an archaeology of the mind with such notions as trace, inscription, layers, evidence, archaicism, and the enduring formative effects of past structures. But what is more striking here is the parallel to the transformation in archaeology’s self-understanding traced for us by James Symonds, and documented for us in this Bulletin by James Dixon. Archaeology and psychoanalysis have both moved on in the 120 years since Freud began to formulate his ideas and the practice of psychotherapy has changed along with its parent psychology. Psychoanalytic interpretation has come more definitively to focus on the ‘here and now’ of the transference, where the patient’s ‘past’ is re-presented or manifested in the relation with the psychoanalyst. And in a development 9
FROM THE DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH
going beyond Freud and the classical psychoanalytic tradition, the psychoanalyst’s own response to her patient has become part of the interpretive field for which their reflexive understanding of the dynamic relations between them becomes their shared object of study. Today’s psychotherapeutic practice could thus quite appositely be described as ‘site-responsive’, in the sense laid out here. Indeed, many similarities suggest themselves from the papers collected here; the attention to embodied experience in the moment, the direct effect of the material and the spatial on the interpreter’s response and, as a modern equivalent of free association, the attention to what is thrown away; the making of new things from old things and the presence of the old in the new. The convergence with archaeological practice is also in the ‘turn to now’, and one might say that in doing so, as well as in paying attention to embodiedness, we re-allow the unconscious mind into everyday life; ‘in the unconscious’ there is no time. By contrast, time has incontrovertibly passed since the ISRF was founded, and 2018 is a marker of where we have got to and what has been achieved in the first ten years. Moreover, in two years the ISRF’s board will be appointing a new Director of Research, whose deceptively simple task is to observe the donors’ wish to support independence of mind in social science research. Other than in this, the past should not determine the future here. In building the ISRF as it is now, we have aimed for a forward-looking and adaptable organisation which has no fixed blueprint for its activities. Again, ‘siteresponsive’ seems an apt description of the ISRF’s own aspiration.
NO EDGES: ARCHAEOLOGY, EXCAVATION AND LANDSCAPE Dr. Oscar Aldred Senior Project Officer, Cambridge Archaeological Unit, University of Cambridge; Visiting Fellow, McCord Centre for Landscape, Newcastle University
II These are trial pieces the craft’s mystery improvised on bone: foliage, bestiaries, interlacings elaborate as the netted routes of ancestry and trade… Seamus Heaney’s Viking Dublin: Trial Pieces from the collection North (1975).
n a cold November morning as I walk from the site compound to the far reaches of the excavation Heaney’s evocative stanza reverberates in my mind’s eye. Waiting for me is a one-metre wide slot across a couple of ditches from yesterday’s excavation graft. The evocation of netted routes of ancestry and trade becomes an actualised material entanglement between myself, the tools I use to excavate the slot, re-presenting ancestry and trade.
NO EDGES: ARCHAEOLOGY, EXCAVATION AND LANDSCAPE
Figure 1: Oakington Airfield, Longstanton, Northstowe, in the morning 2nd November, 2017 © Cambridge Archaeological Unit
As I climb into the slot the earth’s damp smell rises. I feel unsteady as if a primordial shadow has enveloped me, and in doing so I knock my hands and arms against the side of the ditch, crouching on a small pedestal bridge that lies over a figurative deep crevasse. There is no safety net. The earth oozes the past, leaks time. In that moment of heady realisation, I am coupled to a shared moment that lies at the surface of digging in the present and the buried deep past when the ditch was first dug. But there are other times gone by; past excavation experiences that await re-imagining too, also lying at the tip of my trowel.
Figure 2: Excavated ditch in area AA2, in the afternoon 2nd November, 2017 © Cambridge Archaeological Unit
I am transported back to one of the first features I excavated as a professional archaeologist. This is an unforced memory, emerging as I nestle into the ditch, scraping the sides. As far as I remember, this first 12
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encounter was with a pit rather than a ditch, but it was dug into similar earth, earth with a bluish, brown colour and a clayey constitution. But this Proustian moment is not forced upon me by colour or constitution. It is to do with my proximity to earth. With the lip of the feature, eyes meet the edges of the ditch, face to face. And in place of a black flint scraper from the pit twenty-two years ago there is a soft curve of a pot sherd.
Figure 3: Contemplation, area AA2, Oakington Airfield, Longstanton, Northstowe, in the afternoon 18th July, 2017 ÂŠ Cambridge Archaeological Unit
Experiences of excavating, such as the one described above, while common place amongst the communities of digging archaeologists, are not widely known about in the public domain. Perhaps the sharing of surfaces at the literal interface of past and present are not interesting enough for many. However, ask a random person on the street what is entailed in an archaeological excavation, there will usually be a consensus. People will mention the machining of top-soil, stripped down to the archaeological features, and hand-excavation with various tools such as mattocks, shovels and trowels, alongside the 13
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clichéd teaspoon and toothbrush. Occasionally, people will refer to the archaeological tendency to identify differences between deposits and the recovery of artefactual evidence. Less known about will be the kinds of site-wide analysis carried out by specialists during or after excavation. For example, pottery is analysed for both the information contained in it about dating, as well as speculation on vessel form and provenance; or the examination of human and animal bone for age, sex and pathological markers; or a reconstruction of past environments using soil, seeds, pollen, insects and other preserved environmental evidence. The information recovered from any given site varies considerably, and this is due both to activities in the past, as well as preservation conditions of the soil and the impact of later landuses. All this information is useful in adding detail about the past from the archaeology recovered from excavated sites. The description and interpretation from the field, coupled with post-excavation analysis, are all used to convey what was found on a site to a wider audience.1 But the performance of archaeology, particularly excavation, is an experience that many do not have. And while the archaeological operation at the scale of the site is fairly well understood, the relationship between the type of everyday archaeological experience presented about a feature on a site, to the site-wide narrative and then applied to the landscape, is usually absent. What I want to explore here are some aspects of how we might move from the experiences of excavating a ditch to an understanding of what it was like to inhabit a particular landscape by exploring the creative role that archaeologists have; to explore the site-specific character of archaeology – in place – while attending to a view about the landscape. While a site is conveyed as a part of the landscape through the contextualising narratives that put a site, quite literally, in its place in space and time, less evident is a landscape defined by processes of tenure and temporality; base interactions in occupying land. From this view in place and towards the landscape, there are no edges here, only eventful objects that intervene and produce windows into the past.
1. For a pithy description of the archaeological process from field to publication, cf. Lucas, G. (2002). Critical approaches to fieldwork: contemporary and historical archaeological practice. Routledge. p. 1. 14
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Figure 4: Inhabiting the site-landscape, Oakington Airfield, Longstanton, Northstowe, in the afternoon of 29th August, 2017 © Cambridge Archaeological Unit
The anthropologist Tim Ingold stated that ‘the practice of archaeology is itself a form of dwelling’.1 What he meant by this is that by dwelling or inhabiting a landscape for durational time – such as on a long-term excavation – one becomes attuned to the rhythms of the weather, the seasons, the ground and the other species living in a place, and the affordances that come with this occupation of an environment and tenure of the landscape. Thus, the excavation of a slot through a ditch allows the archaeologist to inhabit a microcosm world-view of the person that excavated the ditch in the past because it opens a window for processes of creativity, participation, knowledge and learning to enter archaeology. And the more slots that are excavated, the more the archaeologist becomes attuned to that world-view. Or at least they should. This is what the opening to this paper is about; an experience of digging at the site at Oakington Airfield, Longstanton, north-west of Cambridge, to open a window in to another way of connecting with you. Thus, in the conventional sense of landscape, say in archaeology and anthropology, it is not so much the spatial arrangement of archaeological features as a kind of site-wide form that represent landscape – a site as a part of landscape. Rather it is how one inhabits a site, works, and moves through it – as a kind of performance - that allows the gap between past and present to be closed. What it should do is create a bridge through a re-imagining or re-connecting into different kinds of tenure and occupation; whether archaeological, scientific, creative writing, visual and artistic. Writing about a site such as the one in Longstanton as an archaeological narrative should draw on the individual and collective experiences of excavating a site 1. Ingold, T. (1993). The temporality of the landscape. World archaeology, 25(2), p. 152. 15
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as a means by which to communicate the inhabitation of the past; not reducing the archaeology in to neat, descriptive packages that most archaeology is prone to do. While excavation is a destruction of the past, the ‘preservation by record’ mantra that requires a certain scientific rigour to the collection of ‘data’, it is not the only means of preservation. Nor should this be at the expense of other kinds of investigations. Indeed, more-than-representational forms of expression could – discursive, affective, visual - alongside the usual conventions, convey not only the form or substance of a site and landscape, but also its essence; something that ensures the telling of a good story. This is because conventional writing tropes in archaeology tend not to convey the enormous diversity of how people in the past lived in a landscape, or inhabited as landscape, and, least of all, considering landscape as more than a context or container for past action.
Figure 5: ‘Writing’ archaeology through practice - stacked wheelbarrows, at Oakington Airfield, Longstanton, Northstowe, in the morning 22nd March, 2017 © Cambridge Archaeological Unit
It is likely that many archaeologists, perhaps others too, disagree with this perspective. That is fine, as diversity in reflection is a necessary feature of a healthy disciplinary discourse. However, to the critics of this perspective, perhaps what should be considered first and foremost are the possible collaborations that come with opening the window of archaeology, not just for the practices of archaeology, but also for the wider arts and sciences. For instance, while literature, poetry, cinema, theatre and visual art all make use of archaeological themes in some form, it is a pretty rare occurrence for archaeology to employ these art forms in its own work to convey a the character of an excavation itself, or provide a different access into the narrative, or simply to present something that will appeal to a wider, perhaps new, audience. There 16
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are notable exceptions such as Mike Pearson’s theatre archaeology1,2, and a year of archaeology blog - https://thehumanseasons.wordpress. com/ - but these are far from the main stage. Even personal narratives such as the one opening this article are usually absent. The deep irony is that they are usually apparent in the choices that are made during an excavation. For instance, deciding where to place a slot based is based on what is present on site, as well as based on analogies of past excavation experience. They are also evident in the inherent power, politics and hierarchies operating during an excavation, say, between a site director and a field archaeologist, or between different genders. Often the explicit account of these kinds of interactions will remain hidden in publication. If they are present, they may be embedded in a preface or an acknowledgements section. The workings of these interactions are essential to the understanding of the site – they are specific to it, but also commonplace between different sites. However, the opportunities that come with exploring other kinds of representation should offer other ways in to a site, or, as Mike Pearson suggests, for other kinds of cadences to be heard. It is long been stated that archaeology has lost its innocence3, yet there is a still a certain insecurity inherent about what archaeology’s identity is, especially if it is not yet ready to fully embrace other forms of morethan-representational inquiry. And because of this, there are few archaeologists and institutions that ‘play’, or create bridges for new audiences, or turn the chronological tables around and examine the paradoxical contemporary past. To think differently about the past is to challenge a model of archaeological practice that is based on its nineteenth-century foundation that has arguably long outlived its usefulness. And like Heaney’s trial pieces, archaeology is constructed keenly, rather than improvised, on much more than bone, foliage, and bestiaries. Archaeology is built on the interlacing of both science and humanity; of which the latter has a more reflective sheen when holding up the mirror towards a site-specific archaeology. Thus, like Nigel Thrift, I too want to hold on to a sense of personal authorship, ‘to keep hold of a humanist ledge on the machinic cliff face’.4
1. Pearson, M. (2010). Site-specific performance. Palgrave. 2. Pearson, M., & Shanks, M. (2001). Theatre/archaeology. Routledge. 3. Clarke, D. (1973). Archaeology: the loss of innocence. Antiquity, 47(185), pp. 6-18. 4. Thrift, N. (2008). Non-representational theory: Space, politics, affect. Routledge. p. 13. 17
THE CUBE: A CINEMA ARCHAEOLOGY Dr. Angela Piccini Reader in Screen Media, University of Bristol
he Cube is a volunteer-run, mixed-arts-cinema space in the Stokes Croft area of Bristol, UK. Opened in 1998 in King’s Square, at the site of the former Arts Cinema (the first of the British Film Institute’s Regional Film Theatres), the Cube has generated and held a diverse range of events, people and materials during its life. Since June 2015, the Cube has been involved in a collaborative contemporary archaeology project that has brought together volunteers and archaeologists to learn archaeological and heritage interpretation methods in order to investigate the human and other-than-human pasts, presents and futures of this place. The project emerged in response to the Cube’s purchase of its formerly rented building and development of plans to reconfigure the interior spaces. However, the planned renovations generated anxieties about the potential loss of character, of patina, of an undefined magic of place that generates the specific sense of community that Cube volunteers feel and express. By engaging in archaeological practices from conventional photogrammetry to observation and performance, we felt that we could intervene in that too-easy melancholy of loss1 in order to consider how co-produced archaeological research might contribute to progressive community heritage. Archaeo-Cube The Cube Microplex occupies Bristol’s former Arts Centre Cinema (1981-98), which had taken over from the experimental Bristol Arts Centre that ran from 1964-81. Together with Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol Arts Centre was a site of national importance in the development 1. Freud, S. (1917). Mourning and Melancholia. In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XIV (1914-1916): On the History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement, Papers on Metapsychology and Other Works. Hogarth Press. pp. 237-258.
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of experimental performance and video art in Britain. Before Bristol Arts Centre, the building operated as the city’s Centre for the Deaf, purpose-built around 1916 on what were the grounds of late 18thand early 19th-century orchards and the grand houses of Lower Kingsdown. The Cube emerged out of Club Rombus, which was run by Graeme Hogg and Kevin Dennis from 1994-98 and which organised film club events in a range of settings - including the Arts Centre Cinema - using multiple projectors, music and archive films. Once Hogg, Dennis and Julian Hollman took on the lease of the cinema space in 1998, it provided a space for makers and viewers, for people who loved analogue cinema technologies and the potential for digital filmmaking and for people who had little interest in the boundaries between live art, music and the moving image. After raising funds to purchase the building in December 2013, the Cube was set up as an Industrial and Provident Society and Community Land Trust. The site is now protected for community use in perpetuity and the Cube continues to operate as an entirely volunteer-run space. Archaeology and method Our project involved a range of archaeological methods, which spanned recording, non-recording and media archaeology. By media archaeology, we refer to writers such as Wolfgang Ernst 1, Friedrich Kittler2, Avital Ronell3, Bernard Siegert4, and Claudia Vismann5 who consider the ways in which media technologies operate as materialcultural techniques that shape what it means to be human. While media archaeologies stress ‘the materialities rather than the hermeneutics of communication’6 , they contrast this with their characterisation of the discipline of archaeology as one that digs through ‘foundations, houses and dumps’.7 Of course, as archaeology and heritage practitioners and academics we know that this is not 1. Ernst, W. (2013). Digital memory and the archive. University of Minnesota Press. 2. Kittler, F. A. (1999). Gramophone, film, typewriter. Stanford University Press. 3. Ronell, A. (1989). The telephone book: technology, schizophrenia, electric speech. U of Nebraska Press. 4. Siegert, B. (2013). Cultural techniques: Or the end of the intellectual postwar era in German media theory. Theory, Culture & Society, 30(6), 48-65. 5. Vismann, C. (2008). Files: Law and Media Technology, trans. by Geoffrey WinthropYoung. Stanford University Press. 6. Winthrop-Young, G. (2014). The kultur of cultural techniques: Conceptual inertia and the parasitic materialities of ontologization. Cultural Politics, 10(3), p. 382. 7. Huhtamo, E., & Parikka, J. (Eds.). (2011). Media archaeology: Approaches, applications, and implications. Univ of California Press. p. 3. 19
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archaeology’s whole story. Our full range of professional methods involve visualising technologies at all stages and it is appropriate that archaeologists and heritage practitioners seek to understand media assemblages as properly archaeological. As Greg Bailey argues in his practice-based doctoral dissertation, ‘as message carrier and cultural artefact, archaeology is both transmitter and transmission’ and, as such, ‘media-archaeology is always archaeology’.1 The aim of the Cube project was therefore two-fold: to record a multi-scalar assemblage of the cinema’s interior spaces and artefacts, and to generate materials that could be re-assembled in future as part of an ongoing artwork to be enfolded in the cinema as part of its media heritage. In June 2015, we gathered on a Saturday morning for a two-day methods workshop. We began with an introduction to archaeology and a discussion about what the temporal and methodological limits of archaeology might be. We tried to trouble the notion of archaeology as merely the study of old things.2 We linked archaeological practice with contemporary art in terms of their shared attentions to the material, their attempts to exhaust material potential, their focus on assemblage3, their considerations of scale4 and their interests in troubling relationships between event and document.5,6 Non-recording methods James Dixon began our training with non-recording techniques in order to break down popular stereotypes of archaeological practice. Working in pairs, we followed one of the following five instructions: 1. Explore the exterior of the Cube from different positions in order to explore its situation in a landscape context 1. Bailey, G. (2017). Views and Soundings: marking boundaries for archaeological practice. Unpublished PhD. University of Bristol. p. 69. 2. See Graves-Brown, P., Harrison, R., & Piccini, A. (Eds.). (2013). The Oxford handbook of the archaeology of the contemporary world. OUP Oxford. 3. Harrison, R. (2011). Surface assemblages. Towards an archaeology in and of the present. Archaeological dialogues, 18(2), 141-161. 4. Edgeworth, M. (2013). Scale. In Graves-Brown et-al (2013) op. cit. pp. 379-391. 5. Pearson, M., & Shanks, M. (2001). Theatre/archaeology. Routledge. 6. Allegue, L., Jones, S., Kershaw, B., & Piccini, A. (2009). Practice-as-research: in performance and screen. Basingstoke. 20
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2. Observe ways in which text operates 3. Listen to the Cubeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s various soundscapes 4. Collect rubbish 5. Follow the interior structure We then reconvened to report back to one another about these activities. One group spoke about taking the decision to explore how far they could walk from the Cube while still keeping it in sight.
Figure 1: The white lantern of the Cube, from Carolina House. Photograph: Dixon and Gregory
Adopting a landscape archaeology approach highlighted the multiperiod nature of the city as viewed from this point and brought the importance of scale to the fore. Looked at in this way, the Cube becomes a reference point for understanding the rest of the city.
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Figure 2: Another group focused on the toilets to discuss the heritage value of graffiti.
A further group considered the soundscape in the bar. Two 1200 series Technics turntables, a sound mixer, a CD player and ceiling-mounted speakers, two Casio SE-G1 cash registers and a glitter ball produced both percussive and ambient electronic sound. Glasses clinked and crisp packets rustled. The low ceiling and oak parquet flooring create a particular sonic environment that shapes how we hear things.
Figure 3: Group in the bar discussing sound
The next pair led us into the cinema auditorium for a conversation about the things collected from the floors and how we come to know the differences between rubbish and treasure.
Figure 4: In the auditorium 22
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The final group took us on a walk through the Cube to look at different structural and decorative features that might indicate the events of the buildingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s history.
Figure 5: Remains of the nineteenth-century wall. Photograph: Dixon and Gregory
We then walked through the projection booth at the back of the auditorium, with its 35mm projector and DCP set up, its monitor stacks and trays of microphones, xlr leads, empty 35mm film take-up reels, amps, envelopes and empty DVD cases.
Figure 6: Projection room
At this point, the first phase of archaeological training was complete. Recording methods On the second day, Thomas Kador introduced us to photogrammetry with an aim to map the Cubeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s interior graffiti wall, which is located in the corridor that links the rear access to the office and the bar space.
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Figure 7: Cube graffiti. Photograph: Kador
The Cube’s graffiti has been valued by the volunteer community over many years and provides a focal point both for emotional attachment to the space and its perceived heritage value. Since the Cube’s refurbishment following a fire in 2001, the rear corridor has also become a site of multiple inscriptions. The graffiti calls up domestic practices of marking family members’ heights within the home and evidences claims that Cube volunteers make about the community being an alternative family form. Findings and Analysis At the end of Day 2, we gathered to share our recordings and our attempts to produce an initial media archaeology of the Cube.
Figure 8 (left): Archaeo-Cube Archive. Figure 9 (t-r): Tape recorder, documenting find locations of tape. Figure 10 (b-r): Door jamb graffiti. 24
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Figure 11 (t-r): Text-texture rubbing. Figure 12 (m-r): Floor textures. Figure 13 (b-r): Archaeo-Cube/ Hyper-Cube. Video: Aish
Conclusion Archaeology invites us to attend to space, space and material culture in productive ways. Our attempts to conduct an archaeology of the Cube were intended to transform the ways in which volunteers have understood their working environment. Using diverse archaeology and heritage methods, contemporary archaeology manifests the myriad lives of the cinema, which are not reducible to its being a building in which to screen films. The outcomes of our contemporary archaeology were, moreover, geared towards generating source materials from which further work may emerge. By looking at the building in its landscape context, listening to its sound environment, exploring textures and texts, recording materials, photographing junk and writing on the wall we generated thick descriptions of both the stuff and experience of cinema going. Therefore, more than documenting a past, the Cube archaeology assembles source materials from which unknown futures might be crafted from a cinema heritage.
MATERIALITY, CREATIVE RESPONSES... ...and reaching different understandings of Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin Dr. Laura McAtackney Associate Professor, School of Archeology and Heritage, Aarhus University
he heritage site of Kilmainham Gaol is iconic in a contemporary Ireland that is simultaneously future-focussed while looking backwards to the formation of the state through a so-called ‘Decade of Commemorations’ (c. 2012-c. 2023). This decade includes commemorations of the trade union movement (especially the Dublin Lock Out of 1913), various suffragette actions but especially nationalist insurrections, the latter of which have hitherto dominated our perceptions of this period of Irish history as a ‘revolutionary’ one.1 The ‘decade’ has hit its first high point in 2016 with the centenary of the Easter Rising (1916). The Rising was a failed guerrilla battle that was mainly fought on the streets of Dublin with a large number of occupied buildings as foci for a number of weeks in April 1916. Due to the sporadic nature of the conflict its most focused re-telling has long settled on Kilmainham Gaol, particularly due to the prison’s intimate connection with the tragic tales associated with the execution of the leaders of the rebellion in its aftermath. Furthermore, Kilmainham Gaol is a monumental, static site that can mutably carry the memories of the tragic aftermaths of many previous failed insurrections, the first of which dates back to its establishment in the late 18th century (it opened two years before the Rebellion of the United Irishmen in 1798). Its biography as a site of incarceration is intimately tied to the Ireland of the Act of Union (1801) until its partial separation from the rest of Great Britain with the Government of Ireland Act (1920). This loaded, very present history makes Kilmainham Gaol a site that demands responses and while the mantle of exploring its relationship to ‘revolutionary’
1. Including Coleman, M. (2013). The Irish Revolution, 1916-1923. Routledge.
DR. LAURA MCATACKNEY
Ireland has been largely taken up by Irish historians1; their focus on the documents rather than the materiality of imprisonment has left a significant space for archaeologists to intervene. This freedom also allows archaeologists to be more responsive to place, space and the creative re-imaginings of our collaborators. An Archaeological response to Kilmainham Gaol, 1796 – 1916 – 2016 Kilmainham Gaol is an interesting site to explore as an archaeologist for a number of reasons. First, as a prison structure it can be directly linked to the reformer’s zeal of John Howard (whose designs inspired the older West Wing) before it was partially transformed in the mid 19th century when the East wing was demolished and replaced by a Bentham-inspired panopticon. 2 On a basic level for archaeologists these very different structures of incarceration can tell us how form may have impacted on function when it was a normative place of incarceration. Second, the use of the Gaol during the so-called ‘revolutionary’ period is a natural focus during this period of commemorative fervour. The prison closed to ‘normal’ prisoners in 1910 and thereafter was only used sporadically to house British Army troops before it was forced to reopen in the aftermath of the Easter Rising (1916). It also held prisoners through the War of Independence (1919-1921) and then into the Irish Civil War (1922-1923). For the last decade of its functional life the prison held only political prisoners (and, sporadically, barracked troops) and it closed immediately in the aftermath of its last political prisoners being released in early 1924. The many traces of this extraordinary prison population can be located, if partially, on the top layer of the palimpsest of graffiti, marks, murals and art located on the prison cells, corridors and communal spaces in substantial assemblages.
Figure 1: The author recording graffiti at Kilmainham Gaol.
1. Including Murphy, W. (2014). Political Imprisonment and the Irish, 1912-1921. Oxford University Press. 2. Cooke, P. (1995). A History of Kilmainham Gaol. OPW, Dublin. 27
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The transition of Kilmainham Gaol from an infamous place of imprisonment to celebrated heritage site can appear inevitable now but it was not a straightforward or immediate process. In fact, the prison was abandoned for many decades before it was actively presented as a place of national memory (in time for the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising in 19663). This long period of abandonment – and decisions made about its presentation - can also be traced on the walls of the prison through tell-tale signs of abandonment such as bird droppings, animal scratches, damp and fallen plaster (the latter the result of water infiltration). These material remnants of very particular periods of occupation and abandonment became the focus of a project funded by the Irish Research Council to complete a ‘graffiti survey’ of the walls of the West Wing. The aim was to locate occupants who may no longer be maintained in public memory. In particular, we know that female, political prisoners were held exclusively in the prison for long periods during the civil war and that many occupied their time creating graffiti but they were almost forgotten in the years after its closure. While the project aimed to locate these women and publicize their experiences to a wider public during this commemorative period it also found other traces that opened up different possibilities of responding to the site. In became apparent as the centenary of the Easter Rising approached renewed attention on Kilmainham Gaol was aligning with contemporary social justice issues – including around the treatment, role and memory of women - and so the opportunities to speak about, think around and engage with the structures in various ways appeared.
Figure 2: Future Histories image, Kilmainham Gaol.
3. See O’Dwyer, R. (2010). The Bastille of Ireland: Kilmainham Gaol: From Ruin to Restoration. History Press Ireland. 28
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Final Thoughts: Future Histories at Kilmainham Gaol, May 2016 As part of the 1916 commemorations the Irish Arts Council sponsored performance artists Áine Philips and Niamh Murphy to curate ‘Future Histories’. For one day – 21 May 2016 - eighteen performance artists accessed public and private parts of the prison in order to ‘complicate and trouble history’ and explicitly consider how this now iconic site is remembered into the future.1 The artists worked with the site in various ways and with a wide range of intentions. As part of this project I had the privilege to work with feminist performance artist Niamh Murphy to create a short piece that was inspired by the graffiti located to explore women’s lived experiences in the prison and their subsequent relative absence from public memory. Much has been written in the media about the importance placed on women’s roles in 1916 during the centenary commemoration, including Una Mullaly who has argued the emphasis on the women of 1916 in 2016 was not only needed it also reflected current realities such as the high-profile involvement of women in the creative and governmental spheres that oversaw the commemorations. 2 In our contemporary context we created a performance that was based on historical evidence – in particular evidence held in autograph books from the civil war on how women conducted their ‘official’ commemoration of the Easter Rising. They revealed the women’s commemorations almost exclusively focused on men with only one wholly female-orientated inclusion: the Hail Mary (prayer) recited in Gaelige. We used the repetition of this prayer in the most isolated part of the prison (the basement isolation cells of the East Wing) at night-time to an audience solely consisting of women to re-focus on women during this commemorative period. For me, the performance allowed an engagement with Kilmainham Gaol that was not wholly archaeological, but rather was refracted through collaboration with an artist and in commune with our female audience. The performance engaged with the uncertainty of such a place enveloped in darkness – etchings on the wall could no longer be a focus – with the cold, damp and dark cell reflecting the harsh realities of women’s experiences. To partake in this performance meant that Niamh and I both negotiated how we responded to the site and 1. Philips, A. (2016). Performance Art in Ireland complicates and plays with history. http:// www.artscouncil.ie/Art-2016/Future-Histories/ [Accessed Jul 2017] 2. Mullally, U. (2016). Why women have risen to the top in 1916 lore. https:// www.irishtimes.com/opinion/una-mullally-why-women-have-risen-to-the-top-in1916-lore-1.2588986 [Accessed Jul 2017] 29
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this allowed new ways of seeing. A major repercussion for me as an archaeologist was to allow myself to respond to the site in new ways. I was able to engage with people truly being part of the site, broaden my previous methodological preoccupations with simply recording walls and to think more broadly about how I write about Kilmainham Gaol. In this respect I now actively present it as a potentially dark and dangerous place of incarceration rather than an interesting, but essentially safe, site of heritage.
Figure 3: Performance at Kilmainham Gaol.
REASSEMBLING THE PAST Exploring the recent archaeology of Japanese ceramics production through creative ceramic practice Dr. Christopher McHugh Lecturer in Ceramics, Belfast School of Art, Ulster University
Introduction In November-December 2015, I was ceramic artist-in-residence as part of the Seto International Ceramics and Glass Art Exchange Programme. The city of Seto is a traditional ceramics centre near Nagoya in Japan and pottery has been made there since at least the 13th century. The hills around Seto are dotted with some 500 Muromachi Period (c. 1336-1573) kiln sites and, although the city is past its economic heyday, it remains an important centre of both industrial and craft production. In this illustrated paper, I will discuss my ongoing engagement with the site, which aims to explore the recent past of ceramics production through creative ceramic practice.1 In doing so, I hope to show how my approach to the site is mediated through an appreciation of ceramics gained as both a maker and as someone with a background in archaeology. The present is experienced as a palimpsest of the material remains of a profusion of pasts and this â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;patchworkâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;2 of material juxtapositions is particularly evident in Seto. Decaying wood and corrugated metal buildings (sometimes still occupied) exist alongside contemporary ferro-concrete constructions, and the products and by-products of the ceramics industry both intentionally and incidentally form the fabric of the city. Obsolete saggars have been repurposed into ornamental walls, while heavy rain regularly unearths broken sherds and ceramic 1. See McHugh, Christopher (2017) Ceramics as an archaeology of the contemporary past. In: The Ceramics Reader (Kevin Petrie and Andrew Livingstone (eds)). Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 536-547. 2. Olsen, B. (2010). In defense of things: archaeology and the ontology of objects. Rowman Altamira. p. 108.
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components in the many empty plots. My ceramic artworks echo this stratification of time and material through a process of collection, collage and (re)assemblage. These pieces incorporate photographic imagery with found ceramic objects and casts taken from reanimated plaster moulds. Although collage is often associated with the temporary and ephemeral, by firing photographs onto the ceramic surface as digital decals, I am attempting to document the site’s changing materiality in a ‘semidurable’1 medium. This process materialises digital information, making it literally ‘graspable’.2 While the recent history of ceramics production in Seto is often regarded as being too much a part of lived memory to be worthy of archaeological investigation, this is a significant, yet threatened, heritage resource. These overlooked remnants offer important insights into embodied knowledge and material histories of labour, consumption and archaeological deposition. My works aim to pay homage to and raise awareness of these silent material stories.
Figure 1: The excavated site of the 14th Century Konagaso kiln.
Figure 2: A revetment made from kiln furniture and old saggars.
Figure 3: Rain-exposed sherds and bisque doll limbs in an empty plot, November 2016.
Figure 4: Waster teapots, presumably used as shoring.
1. Pennell, S. (2010). ‘”For a crack or flaw despis’d”: Thinking about Ceramic Durability and the “Everyday” in Late Seventeenth- and Early Eighteenth-Century England’, in Hamling, T. & Richardson, C., Everyday Objects. Ashgate, p. 40. 2. Connerton, P. (2009). How modernity forgets. Cambridge University Press. p. 124. 32
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Figure 5: A still occupied wooden and corrugated metal building, November 2016..
Figure 6: Life amongst the sherds.
Site, maker and artwork as assemblages Jane Bennett’s conceptualisation of assemblage1 is useful in explaining the process through which I have engaged with Seto as a site and responded by bringing into being a new body of ceramic material. She argues that complex processes and phenomena are the collective result of the ‘confederate agency of many striving macro- and microactants’ which sometimes coalesce to form assemblages of ‘vibrant materials’. Here, assemblages are ‘ad hoc groupings of diverse elements’, ‘living throbbing confederations’ with their own life span. Just as the city can be regarded as an assemblage of contingent geological, historical and cultural elements which led to the development of the pottery industry, my engagement with it as an artist with a background in archaeology is mediated through my own ‘cluster’ of memories, preoccupations and biological processes. The ceramic artwork I make is also a synthesis of various agencies, including my will as a maker, the sometimes non-compliant ‘vibrant matter’ of the clay, and the objects and contextual information gleaned from the site. In this way, the action of making involves a ‘flow of the organic [human input] into the inorganic’ clay, where ‘The being of the potter is co-dependent and interweaved with the becoming of the pot’.2
1. Bennett, J. (2009). Vibrant matter: A political ecology of things. Duke University Press. pp. 23-24. 2. Malafouris, L. (2013). How things shape the mind. MIT Press. p. 21. 33
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Figure 7: No longer used plaster moulds in a ceramic figurine factory, November 2016.
Figure 8: Ceramic figurine components.
Figure 9: Ceramic figurines stored as an archive of production.
Figure 10: Abandoned plaster moulds gradually deteriorating.
Alfred Gell described a china dinner set, typical of that made by Spode, Wedgewood or, indeed, one of the Seto potteries, as a series of objects, each with their own ‘micro-histories’, which come together to form a ‘distributed object’ manifesting the ‘intentional actions’ of the factory’s management and design team.1 Gell further contended that there is an ‘isomorphy of structure’ between the ‘internal’ cognitive world of the artist and the way it is manifest externally as the artist’s oeuvre of ‘spatio-temporal structures of distributed objects’.2 Following from this, he argues that ‘what people are externally (and collectively) is a kind of enlarged replication of what they are internally’. 3 Here, humans are not confined to the spatial or temporal limits of their body, ‘but consist of a spread of biographical events and memories of events, and a dispersed category of material objects, traces and leavings, which can be attributed to a person and which, in aggregate, testify 1. Gell, A. (1998). Art and agency: an anthropological theory. Clarendon Press. p. 221. 2. ibid. p. 222. 3. ibid. 34
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to agency and patienthood during a biographical career which may, indeed, prolong itself long after biological death’.1 Accordingly, a work of art or craft can be seen to embody something of the mind and will of its maker, designer and commissioner. This, in turn, may go on to influence others. By repurposing and appropriating found ceramic objects and collaging photographic imagery, I am blending my own agency with that of the unnamed managers, designers and labourers of Seto in a material dialogue which results in a further assemblage of ‘distributed objects’. Collage and assemblage, through their dislocation of time and place, have often been used to document historical change. According to Diane Waldman (1992, 11), collage imbues a work of art with ‘several layers of meaning: the original identity of the fragment or object and all of the history it brings with it; the new meaning it gains in association with other objects or elements; and the meaning it acquires as the result of its metamorphosis into a new entity.’ 2 Discussing Joseph Cornell’s artistic preoccupation with ‘the remnants of human use, weathering, and craftsmanship’, Waldman argues that such fragments, when used sparingly, have the power to ‘suggest the universe’. 3 My incorporation of bisque dolls’ limbs, and the use of sprigs taken from found ceramic figurines, in the Setomonogatari series of ceramic works marks my attempt to ‘monumentalise and ennoble’4 the original forms, while maintaining something of their whimsy. Figure 11 (left) Setomonogatari 1 (2015), porcelain, decals. Figure 12 (right) Setomonogatari 4 (2015), stoneware, porcelain, decals, mixed media.
1. ibid. 2. Waldman, D., & Matisse, H. (1992). Collage, assemblage, and the found object. London: Phaidon. p. 11. 3. ibid. p. 215. 4. ibid. p. 312. 35
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Figure 13 (above): Setomonogatari 5 (2016), porcelain, decals, glass, mixed media. Figure 14 (t-r): A detail of Setomonogatari 5 showing the inclusion of recovered bisque doll components and ceramic flowers. Figure 15 (right): Setomonogatari 6, porcelain, decals, glass, mixed media.
Touching the past It is both the fragility of ceramic objects as well as the ultimate durability of their sherds which makes them ‘our most reliable evidence of human endeavour’, providing ‘a cultural trace that transports a sense of immediacy across the centuries’.1 Such traces of the past have a ‘lingering’ or ‘haunting power’ which remains latent until they are rediscovered.2 John Harries (2017, 123) has described the ‘intimate sense of communion’ he felt with the Beothuk makers of the stone bifaces he 1. Adamson, G. (2009). ‘You Are Here’, in de Waal, E. Signs and Wonders: Edmund de Waal and the V&A Ceramics Galleries, V&A Publishing, p. 36. 2. Lazzari, M. (2011). Tangible interventions: The lived landscapes of contemporary archaeology. Journal of Material Culture, 16(2), p. 176. 36
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discovered on a beach in Newfoundland.1 This closeness to the past came not from feeling the ‘ghostly’ presence of the maker, but from the tactile realisation that the stone could be used as a tool in his own hand. 2 This touch led to a compression of linear time, facilitating a ‘bodily communion with other lives, normally held distant and absent with topological time’. 3 Encountering discarded plaster moulds and collecting rain-exposed sherds and the limbs and torsos of unfinished bisque dolls, afforded me a similar material empathy with the potters in Seto. Through the ceramic fragments, I could feel the absent presence of their makers. By reusing the moulds to slipcast new ceramic objects, I was able to understand the material affordances of these tools at first hand. The moulds ‘instructed’ use through their materiality and form4, enabling a reiteration of production and constituting a store of memory as both material witnesses and facilitators of tacit practices.
Figure 16 (above): The abandoned moulds I repurposed to make components of Setomonogatari 4. Figure 17 (t-r): Unfired clay flowers slowly deteriorating. Figure 18 (right): A ceramics factory being demolished, November 2016.
1. Harries, J. (2017). A stone that feels right in the hand: Tactile memory, the abduction of agency and presence of the past. Journal of Material Culture, 22(1), p. 123. 2. ibid. p. 125. 3. ibid. p. 126. 4. Olsen, B. (2010). op. cit. p. 210. 37
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Conclusion This process of collection, collage and reassemblage is itself a proactive contribution to the archaeological record, resulting in a body of work which has the potential to endure and go on to be experienced as the past in the present. As such, it is necessary to consider how this material might be read or experienced in the future. The ability of the mould or the biface to convey a sense of proximity to the past comes from our ability to imagine using them as tools. As sculptural objects, my works do not function in this way. Instead, they stand as necessarily imperfect attempts to record through form and imagery something of how I encountered the site of Seto as an assemblage of a multitude of pasts experienced in the present. Once fired, this digital and analogue information, which testifies to my lived experience, is committed to memory through a ‘fossilisation or fixing of a moment’ 1 , where time becomes ‘enfolded into matter’. 2 In collaging and reassembling imagery and indexical traces from a variety of contexts and periods, an attempt has been made to confound the linear time of historical narration by juxtaposing otherwise disparate elements. The artworks made during my residency were acquired by Seto City Art Museum and it is hoped that they will exist in this collection as a material testimony to my encounter with this city and community in flux.
1. Gormley, A. (2004). ‘Antony Gormley in conversation with James Putnam’, in Groom, S. (ed.) A Secret History of Clay: From Gauguin to Gormley, p. 85. 2. Harries, J. (2017). op. cit. p. 125. 38
SITE RESPONSIVE ARCHAEOLOGY: A RESPONSE Professor Marilyn Strathern ISRF Academic Advisor; Emeritus Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge
his stimulating collection, brought together by James Dixon, raises numerous questions for the locating and ‘siting’ of research material clearly not restricted to archaeology. So, I ask an anthropological one: what is the object of knowledge here? However, the archaeologists’ examples are so illuminating that I first expand the question through a site they bring to mind. On the face of it, the site is thoroughly conventional (just the kind that some of the publics imagined here might think of): Kuk, in Highlands Papua New Guinea, a locale that has yielded substantial evidence of early agriculture, in one of the world’s oldest regions of indigenous domestication.1 The excavation leaves little to be seen, its nomination as a World Heritage Site resting in part on its present day cultural presence, the continued growing of ancient cultivars (tubers and bananas). What is the object of knowledge here, and will that affect how the site responds? Clearly investigation will refract into as many objects of knowledge as a site throws up. A: The dig, the ground archaeologized – we know that yields excavation, methods of unearthing, recording. B: The findings, here evidence of early cultivation, extends the site into various domains of world knowledge, including techniques for analyzing entities (such as phytoliths) no longer part of site A. C: However, A reconceptualized by B lends itself to re-imagining a former landscape of receding forest, drainage ditches, mulching practices. D: When site D brings us into the present for heritage purposes, it 1. Golson, J., Denham, T., Hughes, P., Swadling, P., & Muke, J. (Eds.). (2017). Ten thousand years of cultivation at Kuk Swamp in the highlands of Papua New Guinea (Vol. 46). ANU Press.
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may be discovered in today’s gardens where crops are cultivated in the same way as they were in various phases of site C: knowledge is embodied in the practised hands of cultivators, distributed unevenly across the present population. Even to talk of that and site E rises in our path, a version of D, namely the creativity and skill imagined for the mind and hand of the archaeologist. Then again, E morphs into F, the archaeologist’s social world, and the object of knowledge created in communicating any of these sites to diverse audiences. Of course, thinking of a responsive site is a conceit; site-responsive archaeology is what this collection is about. Fascinating in many dimensions, it is especially intriguing apropos the authorial actor, the person carrying ‘the archaeology’ (site E). There are echoes of the way anthropologists have sought to theorize their presence in what they study - inside or outside the field - precisely in order to make an object of knowledge, an artefact, out of it. I have drawn these notional sites from the papers as a whole, and briefly play them back again, as so many artefacts. While Dixon starts with a depiction of the places and spaces where archaeologists work, it is clear that this is as much a register of site E as of site A. And within E’s purview, site B seems both separated off as the results of work and an anticipated horizon for it. Aldred’s imagination of site as part of landscape merges the temporal distinction between sites C and D. Simultaneously his inhabitation (site E) performs a very particular sensory and intellectual experience. In attempting to grasp the materiality of communicative practice, Piccini and her co-authors are exploring site F as much as E. The diverse ways through which impressions and traces may become a common object (of knowledge) involve the notion of a future life analogous to that of heritage. The point is developed by McAtackney, with respect to what is already such an object in the past: imprisonment in gaol. The gaol is newly discovered for the material traces that this object has left, that is, it is freshly unearthed as a site A, a condensed version of what is known of the accompanying history (potentially a new site B too). Finally, McHugh renders down an archaeologist (the finder of potsherds, an element of A) into an object of knowledge through his own artifacts, the built ceramics that re-enact assemblages from the past. These are a bit like site D in deploying material continuity with the dispersed 40
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persons of the potters; a bit like B, a matter of results or findings, in a kind of reverse embodiment, compressed into alien forms. My alphabetic categories are playful. But perhaps, by asking how we think about the objects of knowledge presented in this bulletin, something of the energy and innovation behind these sitings will have been captured.
SITE RESPONSIVE ARCHAEOLOGY: A RESPONSE Dr. Nishat Awan Senior Lecturer, School of Architecture, University of Sheffield
he articles in this issue all deal with the intricate relationship archaeologists develop with a site, whether through proximity to the earth, through a relationship with objects, or in the process of uncovering past histories. Site here is understood in all its complexity, spanning across different times, including the objects that are found there, but crucially also the relationships that are made within and across the site. As an outsider to the discipline, I can only comment with reference to my own background as an architect, where we also consider a siteâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s past, present and future through the relationships that it makes or has the potential to make. In the move from architecture understood as built object to architecture being understood as produced through a set of social relations, or more radically still architecture understood as social relations, the definition and boundary of a site is exploded.1,2 One of the first moves, coming from a feminist perspective on architecture, was to reimagine site as location. 3,4 This meant approaching the site from particular perspectives, such as that of the people who might use it or the various claims upon it, legal or otherwise. Yet, if we were to follow all such connections across a site it would expand infinitely, much like Borgesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s story of the cartographers who made a one-to-one map of their world.5 So, one of the crucial 1. Petrescu, D., & Trogal, K. (Eds.). (2017). The Social (re) production of Architecture: Politics, Values and Actions in Contemporary Practice. Taylor & Francis. 2. Awan, N., Schneider, T., & Till, J. (2013). Spatial agency: other ways of doing architecture. Routledge. 3. Rendell, J. (1999). A Place Between. Public Art Journal, (2). 4. Jones, P. B., Petrescu, D., & Till, J. (Eds.). (2007). Architecture and participation. Spon Press. 5. Borges, J. L. (1998). On the exactitude of science. Collected Fictions. Translated by
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questions to emerge in the discourse around socially produced architecture, is precisely that of re-positioning or re-imagining the edges or the limits of a site. This is a question of both inclusion and exclusion, making the notion of location itself problematic, not least because location often morphs into a question of the local. What are the local claims on a site, how do we involve the local community etc.? These are of course valid concerns, and ones that are addressed in some of the articles in this issue in relation to archaeology, but they hide within them the danger of becoming too local, that is of exclusion. A productive way of working with this tension is through an understanding of site through Sara Ahmed’s concept of orientation. In her book, Queer Phenomenology, Ahmed writes of how objects, relationships, the world itself, orientates us.1 We follow lines and fissures laid out before us by others. She makes a distinction here between location and orientation. Whereas location is about fixity, orientation tells us where to go and in doing so can also restrict us. “When we follow specific lines, some things are reachable and others remain or even become out of reach. Such exclusions—the constitution of a field of unreachable objects—are the indirect consequences of following lines that are before us…”. 2 It seems that traditional archaeology is very much located within the fissures of a site and its interpretations could be said to emerge from the very space and time in which they are located reflecting the prevalent concerns of the day. In reference to Ahmed’s definition above, this is very much a following of lines that keeps one within the zone of the reachable, what could also be understood as an evidence-based archaeology. In my understanding, what the diverse contributions within this issue are offering, is a move towards the field of the unreachable. If archaeology is a discipline and practice engaged in creating narratives, then site responsive archaeology may be asking not only the question of how you narrate a site, but also how you respond to the desires associated with that site in all its complexities, including the conflict that comes with this as one desire is given precedence over another. This, of course, brings politics into what could have previously been Andrew Hurley. Penguin, p. 325. 1. Ahmed, S. (2006). Queer phenomenology: Orientations, objects, others. Duke University Press. 2. ibid. pp. 14-15. 43
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considered apolitical. There are echoes of these debates within architecture also, where the idea of site-specificity, taken from art practice is reimagined as spatial agency, that is the transformative potential within spatial (architectural) practices that mobilise the needs and desires inherent within a specific place.1,2,3 It is a way of challenging the very use of architecture and it seems such questions are also of importance in archaeology.
1. Awan et. al. (2013) op. cit. 2. Vardy, S. (2009). Spatial agency: tactics of self-organisation. arq: Architectural Research Quarterly, 13(2), 133-140. 3. Kwon, M. (2004). One place after another: Site-specific art and locational identity. MIT press. 44
This issue features: Oscar Aldred Nishat Awan Laura McAtackney Christopher McHugh Angela Piccini Marilyn Strathern