My work and research has wound its way back to mining. But it’s sort of connected into a broader theme of contemporary artists’ and wider culture’s current obsession with archeology.
I’m in a process of ‘digging’ up the relics and ‘structures’ from my 15 year socially-engaged arts practice and digital archive, of working with marginalised/‘hidden’ communities across Cumbria. I have recently discovered this is a trend amongst artists of the last 20 years, called ‘archeology of the contemporary past’. Basically you dig something up in order to right a wrong, celebrate, make something in society more visible (I feel guilty of all three), or you fetishize the crumbly aesthetic (guilty again). I realised I have the same motivations as every other archeology/geography enthusiast, the only difference being, I don’t do as much actual physical digging. Although saying that, in the manner in which I make the work, I think I will be mimicking those archeological practices.
So, then, I’ve read that, a criticism against this digging up (bloody art criticism- constantly criticising everything lol), is maybe a failure to imagine a future (e-flux journal #4 — march 2009 Dieter Roelstraete The Way of the Shovel: On the Archeological Imaginary in Art). I thought, well maybe, out of this archive, I can imagine a future. Apparently, this comes under the umbrella of speculative archeology!
So what I've decided to do is to take some of the fantastical narrative material that myself and the groups conjured up, and I’m going to imagine and make the sequels. I’m going to take the somewhat grungy Labyrinth-esque aesthetic that we all used at the time, but mix it with the ‘archeology aesthetic’ ie gorgeous rusty stuff. Oh god, it’ll all look like steam punk if I’m not careful. But, I think this ‘looking forward to the future’ is maybe what’s needed in this subjectmatter. Make sense of the past, to answer the question of how to make a real difference in the future, with what I do?
Pursuing an understanding of what we need to exist in the world: how do we connect with others (and the wider world and its objects), how do we understand others, What is our language.