Tuesday, 24 July 2007

the archaeology of now

as national archaeology week and my experiment with the city draws to its close, i’ve been drawn far away from my usual preoccupations with excavating and exploring prehistoric settlements and the civilisations of antiquity, away from the usual presumptions about what archaeology is and what its parameters and applications are, towards a broader interpretation that sees archaeology as part of the research into the contemporary big picture. this 'archaeology of now' interrogates pressing issues of late modernity, recognises its responsibilities as a cultural producer, and involves itself in wider cultural and societal debates.

if history could be said to be the story of names, dates and momentous developments, then archaeology has always seemed to me to be the stories of the ordinary, the everyday, the insignificant things and people behind the great names, dates and developments – it’s not a great leap to apply these same principles to now, to what’s around us, to notice and remark upon them before they disappear without critical comment or engagement.

if the project of the artist has been increasingly to reflect and illuminate the conditions of modernity, its pluralisms, contradictions and contestations, who else but the archaeologist has the depth of vision and the methodological framework to add weight and insight to this endeavour – who else dissects and deconstructions the physical, visual and symbolic evidence of the material world, offering alternative, even subversive readings from the dominant narrative of an increasingly globalised mainstream discourse. this worldview, this reflexive archaeology encourages a renewed interest into the contemporary landscape and built environment and sees that the archaeological imagination can be applied where you least expect it, and with unexpected allies and collaborators.

my original intention at the outset of national archaeology week was to figure out the link between our practices and the underlying shared purposes of our increasingly merging interests and concerns. along the way, i have spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out just where i, a prehistorian by training, with an interest in the philosophy of archaeology and the history of its reflective journey on its own motives, methods and future, might find a productive place to contribute. i shall keep you posted as this journey progresses and takes me into the maelstrom of contemporary debate.

the situationist anniversary weekend hosted from 26 - 29 july at urbis and around the city provides this uncertain archaeologist with an opportunity to apply the ideas and strategies of a seemingly unconnected discourse with modernity to those of the 'archaeology of now'. unqualified as i am, in i go, nervous but hopeful of a new ally in this emerging practice, the project of investigating and looking at now...


Yewtree said...

Hiya, you may be interested in my blog "Pagans for Archaeology" - http://archaeopagans.blogspot.com

I like the way you are combining art with archaeology.

Bluestocking said...

thank you for the link - i am immediately delighted to see a posting for iwd on women in archaeology! i was loathe to cover this aspect on this diary as i try to concentrate on the contemporary but your list, a lovely mix of past and present practitioners, is truely a delight to this former archaeologist and made me want to take up my trowel and leave today behind!!

as a prehistorian who is not a pagan and is sometimes bewildered and worried by these very religious times! i confess to often feeling wary of pagansism but am already having my prejudices challenged by your thoughts on venus figurines & matriarchies, not to mention the post on reburial!

thank you for the opportunity to engage with the diversity of ideas and wealth of information on your blog, warmest regards epnxxx