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.