Creating Contexts: Between the Archaeological Site and Art Gallery
“This paper reflects upon the Test Trenches Project, which involved arts practitioners in a range of media collaborating with archaeologists on the excavations at the Ness of Brodgar, Orkney. The team, including the archaeologists, subsequently undertook a short studio residency at the Pier Arts Centre, a contemporary art gallery in Stromness, and collaborated on creating installations in a range of media. Rather than aiming specifically to create finished works for display, visual experimentation was explored as a meaningful process in itself. Nevertheless, the project was able to provide subtle and unexpected contextual insights into the archaeological material”.
KeywordsArt Archaeology Excavation Gallery Exhibition Interpretation
The Test Trenches team was Claire Pençak (Tabula Rasa Dance Company), Brian Hartley (stillmotion.co.uk), Bill Thompson (billthompson.org), Glenda Rome, Dan Lee and Antonia Thomas. Many thanks to Nick Card, ORCA Senior Projects Manager and Director of the excavations at the Ness of Brodgar, for allowing access to the archive and decorated stones from the site. Particular thanks to Andrew Parkinson (Curator) and the staff at the Pier Arts Centre, Stromness for their assistance during the project, workshop and exhibition, and for many interesting conversations about the relationship between art and archaeology. An earlier draft of this chapter was presented at the Assembling Archaeology conference at the University of Sheffield in September 2011 and I am grateful to the conference’s organisers, Bill Bevan and Bob Johnston, for the invitation to attend and to the other attendees for debate and discussions during the day. This chapter has benefitted from comments on draft text by Nick Card, Mark Edmonds, Dan Lee, Andrew Parkinson and Claire Pençak but the ideas expressed and any shortcomings in it remain my own. Thanks especially to Dan Lee for his continuing support and inspiration and for giving me the time to work on this paper by looking after our beautiful daughter Lucie Lee, who was born in the middle of writing it. Images are individually accredited.
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