Attending to Absence

Sarah Bell (US)

To dwell in the world during the Coronavirus pandemic is to witness the collision of theory with experience.  As we live through this unique historical moment, experiencing isolation, emptiness and absence in almost unprecedented ways, it is worth reflecting on the manner in which our bodies respond to a world drained of physical presence.  I argue that an awareness of absence—and thus, conversely, of presence—should be considered as one amongst the almost infinite number of senses with which we are endowed. This sense should be understood as a physical and an emotional sensitivity not only to the absence of human presence, but also to the absence of things—a condition that is made appreciable through the complex relationship that exists between part and whole, non-place and place, here and gone.  As is evident in so many instances, it is in the interstitial “spaces between” these categories that both meaning and material accumulate.   Taking the remains of the abandoned Rocky Point Amusement Park in Warwick, Rhode Island as a case study, this presentation explores the ways in which the material environment at the park has been altered by visitors to reflect an awareness of absence through mark-making and graffiti.  

pubCHAT Americas

McSorley’s Old Ale House, Manhattan. By Leonard J. DeFrancisci, CC BY-SA 3.0

Miriam Rothenberg and Carolyn White are hosting PubCHAT on 23 October 19:00 EDT (midnight BST)

Join these social events organised by the CHAT Standing Committee and link up with people in the Americas.

Come CHAT with us! PubCHATs are designed to be an informal way to meet other contemporary and historical archaeologists and to talk about life, research, and interests! There is no formal programme, so just show up with your favorite evening beverage or meal and be prepared to socialise. This PubCHAT is timed to be accessible for those located in the Americas, but everybody is welcome! This is part of a series of three events being held in association with the Festival in different timezones (including Europe/Africa).

We will send out the Zoom link via the CHAT JiscMail (CONTEMP-HIST-ARCH@jiscmail.ac.uk) a few days before the event. You can sign up to join this mailing list HERE by clicking the ‘subscribe’ button.

Note: There is no official language for pubCHATs and while it is likely that many of those who come along speak English, we welcome speakers of all languages.

pubCHAT Europe + Africa

Real ale handpumps. Source Wikipedia.

Rachael Kiddey and Hilary Orange are hosting PubCHAT on 20:00 BST (21:00 SAST) Friday 23 October

Hilary Orange is hosting PubCHAT on 19:00 GMT (21:00 SAST) Friday 30 October

Join these social events and link up with people in Europe and Africa.

Come CHAT with us! PubCHATs are designed to be an informal way to meet other contemporary and historical archaeologists and to talk about life, research, and interests! There is no formal programme, so just show up with your favorite evening beverage or meal and be prepared to socialise. These PubCHATs are timed to be accessible for those located in Europe and Africa, but everybody is welcome! This is part of a series of three events being held in association with the Festival in different timezones (including the Americas and Asia/Oceania).

We will send out the Zoom link via the CHAT JiscMail (CONTEMP-HIST-ARCH@jiscmail.ac.uk) a few days before the event. You can sign up to join this mailing list HERE by clicking the ‘subscribe’ button.

Note: There is no official language for pubCHATs and while it is likely that many of those who come along speak English, we welcome speakers of all languages.

Future Prospectors: How can we sustain a forward-facing archive?

Karen Guthrie and Nina Pope (UK)

Online workshop on Monday 26 October 19.00 GMT

Join Somewhere (artists Karen Guthrie & Nina Pope) and other past ‘Prospectors’ from different disciplines, to consider possible futures for their cross-disciplinary Prospection project.

Prospection is an annual multi-disciplinary project which studies the growing community of Eddington in Cambridge across a 2-day period each year. Participants include artists, archaeologists, sociologists, designers and archivists, each using their expertise to portray the place and its people as they see fit. Initiated in 2013 by Karen and Nina (aka Somewhere), there have been six Prospection surveys to date: almost a quarter of an anticipated 25-year commitment.  Developing from an artists’ residency with Cambridge Archaeological Unit and part-supported by Eddington’s University-funded Public Art Programme, the project has resulted in short films, texts, photographs, drawings and data being collated and stored in Cambridgeshire Archives, with one survey exhibited at Kettles Yard Gallery in 2014 in Somewhere’s retrospective, ‘Past, Present, Somewhere’.

Hosted by the artists, this discursive workshop invites CHAT members and other contributors to brainstorm new ideas for Prospection, as it sits in suspension due to the global pandemic. With diminishing funding available, the project is at a crossroads, offering CHAT the opportunity to help the artists steer the project into a new phase. We invite ideas and discourse on what works (and doesn’t) in the methods used by Prospectors to date, how our manifesto might change, how other diverse contributors to (and hosts of) the project could be found, and what is it about the methodology we have used to date that we consider important and unique. 

We also hope to explore some of the practical challenges of sustaining the project over a long timeframe and to draw comparisons with other relevant projects.

More information about Prospection (including its original manifesto).

We strongly encourage workshop attendees to first view Somewhere’s five short films made for Prospection and released exclusively for festivalCHAT in a world premiere on Sunday 25 October 20.00 GMT.

Book your ticket here.

Equality? Does it exist in Finnish archaeology?

Sanna Lipkin, Tiina Äikäs & Tuija Kirkinen (Finland)

Blue Bird Sessions on Thursday 29 October 15:30pm EET (13:30 GMT) @SannaLipkin

Note: this event will take place on Twitter

The current Government of Finland has become famous for a high number of young female ministers and its strategic theme of “Fair, equal and inclusive Finland”, which was based on the values of intersectional feminism. Finland is a forerunner in non-discrimination and gender equality at the work life. However, even the government’s program admits that a lot remains to be improved. In 2010, we raised these issues into discussion among the archaeologists with hopes that gender equality would improve. Now, ten years later, we wanted to see if anything has changed. Almost 80 Finnish archaeologists answered our questionnaire about equality, sexual harassment and discrimination within the national field. Even though some archaeologists see that things have changed, it seems that ten years is a short period for clear improvements in equality issues. For instance, within universities young female archaeologists have been awarded internationally evaluated high profile funding, but this has not led to permanent appointments. Instead, a vast majority of the university posts are still held by men. The answers provide that especially young Finnish archaeologists are well aware of the situation, are highly conscious of different aspects of equality and work actively for improvements. We will discuss the questionnaire results and future directions in an interactive Twitter thread.

Blood, sweat, and tears: Field notebooks as art objects

Alex Claman (US)

Blue Bird Sessions Thursday 29 October 08:00 CDT (13:00 GMT) @aclaman_archaeo

Note: this event will take place on Twitter

This photo-essay-via-Twitter-thread considers field survey notebooks and hand drawn survey unit images from the Sinis Archaeological Project in Sardinia as art/art objects. Archaeological survey data, the finds and find counts themselves, are collected in and from the fields represented by the sketches and then stored in the notebooks before being transferred to a more official and permanent repository, whether as graphite/ink on paper or bits on a disk. The field sketches may be referenced during the process of working on the project’s GIS, but by and large they exist primarily as last-ditch backups and failsafes; they are created but then languish, unused and potentially forgotten in attics, basements, or storage. 

These notebooks are by their nature art objects (as opposed to archive objects), composites preserving not only the imprints of pencil and pen but also (potentially) dirt, sweat, sunscreen, blood, and plant matter. The hand-drawn maps showcase a wide variety of artistic skill, and the variations provide an intriguing window onto understandings of spatial relationships and individual artists’ informational priorities. The notebooks, while broadly consistent in terms of categorization and physical size, demonstrate a wide range of organizational and use strategies, with project members prioritizing compactness, thoroughness, whimsy, or some combination thereof. 

Such creations are integral to the quasi-nomadic process of archaeological fieldwork; they are collections of preserved artistic fragments, creative engagements with fields and find counts.https://twitter.com/aclaman_archaeo

Pandemic Perception: Navigating Materiality and Altered Landscapes During COVID-19

Stacey Camp (US), Dante Angelo (Chile), M. Lou Brown (US) & Kelly Britt (US)

Blue Bird Sessions on Wednesday 28 October 09:30 EDT (13:30 GMT) @covidart4

Note: this event will take place on Twitter

This Twitter thread is devoted to our collaborative work on how COVID-19 has altered the ways we encounter our material world. We will take attendees on an audio and visual tour of materiality and alterations to landscapes documented in the project collaborators’ communities and home countries across the United States and Chile. To interpret this data, we draw upon theoretical frameworks in the fields of collective memory, trauma studies, and psychogeography. The data include yard signs, chalk art, flyers, and other forms of artwork as well as public signage and material changes in how people navigate their communities (e.g. lockdowns, tracking people’s movements, etc.). We explore how these phenomena engaged notions of home, shelter, space, comfort, and community. The project collaborators will also reflect upon how we have used archaeological and anthropological methodologies of documenting and observing as a way of coping with the stress, uncertainty, and trauma of a global pandemic. A core approach to our work has been the recognition that we, too, are each part of the communities experiencing this trauma. Our analysis necessarily includes our own movements through emotional and physical space.

Wall Tweets: messages and grumbling in  the industrial environment 

“Please close the door” (added below: YOU F****** MORONS!)

João Luís Sequeira (Portugal)

Blue Bird Sessions on Wednesday 28 October 11:00 GMT @JoaoLuisSequei1

Note: this event will take place on Twitter

Let us take a ride into the world of messages from workers to workers in Portuguese factories! Guaranteed fun for sure, but also, we can read between the lines – most of these messages reflect the bustling union activity in Portuguese post-dictatorship, the rise of  the communist party then, and of course, the disputes between football adepts. 

And personal messages. And calendars with women. Lots of them.