The Midsomer Norton Dig Project, Summer 2005 was a pilot inter-disciplinary project that aimed to use a local Archaeological Dig as a method of locating art practice(s). The project consisted of 5 female artists, 1 undergraduate student, 3 postgraduate students and 1 postgraduate. Although the project had not aimed to be all female it is important to point out as this element influenced the dynamics and progression of both the primary experience and the translation into artwork over the subsequent months. The project was motivated by both the experience of Place and the experience of Power negotiating self within and beyond their boundaries.
It was a project of many ends: the personal, the collective and the individual. It was important that the experience was as de-cluttered as possible allowing each artist to not only engage in dialogue with the archaeologists, the dig, the history and the place but to also locate themselves and their practice. As a result of this each small body of work exhibited on the following website reflects the artists negotiation with experience.
The artwork presented includes three of the artists who took part utilising collage, digital photography and text. Crossing many boundaries the work aims to access the specificity of place and the phenomenology of place. The ritual and personal approach is not presumptuous and attempts to position itself within the complex text of art practice(s) and archaeology.
I have been putting this off, I suppose avoiding the write-up. Unsure of what I may find or maybe that I won’t find. I sit- weak de-caf coffee at hand, in a studio far away from the event of Summer 2005: The Dig Project. I will take you back to conception if you wish to read. The root of idea the instigation that fuelled this inter-disciplinary pilot Project. It is about home, a place called home. My home. A place called Midsomer Norton. Now this project is not about me, but about a negotiation of a place, a struggle of ownership and relationships between the land and the people whom roam within. History. Present. Unknown.
Diary entry Extract: July 11th 2005
I have stepped too close
Remove your breath
You impede our vision
If you get closer we shall forget our time, our purpose
I was not structured enough
I place no boundaries
The potential for collapse was there
And it did.
I write this again and I tell you more this time. The project aimed to take on a holistic approach enabling more than one discipline to communicate and cross borders within the same context; an archaeological dig. For me the project was a pilot to discover how more than one discipline could not only share a physical place but also the place of terminology and the use of this terminology in exploring the relationship between the landscape and human beings. The purpose of doing so was an attempt to make a space between the Place and the Experience. My role as a Junior Fellow in that previous academic year had centred round a learning tool called a Contextual Journal. The journal is a body of work materialising in the form of a document that each undergraduate student is required to complete. Facilitating the production of the journals the aim was to promote the relationship between theory and practice as a method to understanding ones own work, thoughts and production. The dig project attempted to realise the space between practice and theory by contextualising the space within a specific place and collectively reflecting upon the experience of this place.
The archaeologist students
I was told last night on the phone.
Man: “ There’s a way of walking on an archaeological dig, and you can spot someone new”
Woman: “ What do you mean, man with no body?”
I have never seen your face, but your authority crawls within my being. You are not welcome here.
I was not deceived by these.
‘Like a deep woman, it hid a good deal; it had many faces, many delicate, terrible veils. It spoke of miracles and distances; if it could court, it could also kill’ (Plath, 1977, p.109).
1. Sylvia Plath, 1977, Johnny Panic and the bible of dreams, Faber and Faber
It must be remembered that I had made no claim to the land I had been born from. My walk-on role had made me powerless. My powerlessness was defined by the silent place they gave me. On July the 18th 2005 I wrote:
I watch them, now from a further distance than before, calculating, measuring, walking the field.
They’ve claimed the land, ownership of the history- they have hunted and gathered. But I am a settler, a local and part of this landscape. I have moved with the rolling beats of the fields, I have spoken with the silence of the trees. I belong in this landscape they carve away.
Never before have I felt such identity with a land than now, a time I am kept from it. I have rejected this ‘god-forsaken’ place with great heart, but now I am changed I am threatened I am engulfed. The power of men, the power of people.
Ownership Authorship Power I weep. Silence
A place Now and then Measured Kept Mine
Once Gone Silence I weep
Belong Forbidden Personal
Edited text and sellotape
Length: 430 cm, Varying width: 2.5 – 5 cm
Through my work I autobiographically explore the politics of power; this often relates to perceptions of boundaries.
For me the dig project concerned the boundaries of ownership over knowledge and the spatial implications that academic knowledge occupies when two specialisms come together on a grassy field that belongs to neither.
A personal interpretation of an inter-disciplinary exchange
An invitation, an opportunity … not exactly straight-forward or easy but revealing, instructive and rewarding. The project involved working on site alongside an archaeological team with a small group of fellow artists. Each artist followed a personal line of inquiry yet shared insights and any knowledge gleaned. Many valuable exchanges followed, and continue.
Life in the Stone Ages, as explained by the archaeologists, led me to see the surrounding area through different eyes. The site would then have been densely wooded, no sky or horizon visible for the most part; a life lived in permanent twilight. I learned that there still exists a tribe in the Amazon jungle that has no word for horizon.
All my work is founded in the phenomenological landscape, a response to place; attention and observation filtered through the senses and emotions. Both physical and psychological with shades of memory and past experience – intensely subjective yet with echoes of humanity and common fundamentals of being.
Observations and investigations around the dig led to the emergence of a body of work. ‘Evidence and Imaginings’ grew out of a growing interest in the notion of no horizon, informed imaginings based in factual evidence but taken somewhere else. Time was spent in woodland, in the semi-gloom under the trees, pondering other lives and ways of being. A series of photographs resulted; the evidence without, the imaginings within.
The four photographic images shown above are taken from the ‘Evidence and Imaginings’ series, each digital print being 120 x 160cms.