An artistic exploration of some archaeological theory.

09 February 2007

Reflexive Representations [7]: Ford Transit Van J641 VUJ

12-14 December 2006
Digital Photomosaic (90x130cm)
Detail below.

This photomosaic depicts a Ford transit van which was excavated in July 2006 by archaeologists from the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Bristol and Atkins Heritage. This van was routinely used for field archaeology projects (1991-1999) before it became primarily involved in works and maintenance (1999-2005). Archaeologists John Schofield, Cassie Newland and Anna Nilsson, and filmmaker and archaeology screen media student Greg Bailey provided the following report:

‘The van was donated to the project by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum, and moved to Bristol for excavation. This was to be like any conventional excavation: we proposed to dismantle the van systematically and – at times – forensically, recording all features, structures, deposits and artefacts, as well as introducing specialists for particular tasks. We were interested in how the van had been treated; what condition it was in; and what stories the artefacts, body work and engine parts could tell us. Do they contribute to a single narrative, or multiple narratives each emphasising different degrees of care and attention? Can we distinguish ‘drivers’ from ‘owners’ for example? What could forensics tell us – we understood the potential from police investigations, but in terms of the everyday, what could we learn about the uses to which the van was put?’

The image is composed of 2,784 ‘cell images’ collected through unfiltered searches for the words ‘van’, ‘transit’, ‘archaeology’ and ‘contemporary’. The relationships between the resulting images render overt assumptions regarding the processes of archaeological excavation and knowledge production. The multiple and potentially conflicting images invite the viewer to explore their own understandings (as well as other objects and machines – and archaeological process in general) as totalities and networks of mediated relations.

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