SSG LAST POST : Forms of Nature

This is the last post of a series, so here is a little backward glance to what we’ve done in the last month. (After this day, we wish to elaborate on these posts on https://sitesealgesture.wordpress.com/ , where you are most welcome to follow us).

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We started this month by introducing the point of departure for our collaboration and what collaboration actually means for us. Then, we each summarized our respective practices, their preexisting links and overlaps, as well as our disciplinary backgrounds. Two years of shared creative process preceded this series of posts, but Public Archaeology remained the cohesive framework within which we organized our activity and participated in public events.

So, the next step, ‘Our Toolkit – On Practice’ was a lengthy report on how we function as a duo, the type of media we use and the material ouput of it. Really, making remains central to our approach to Heritage, also making strong personal connections to the sites, rather than perceiving them as decontextualized artefacts with a fixed meaning.

Then, we brought you to Hoo Fort on a dinghy, sharing our step-by-step translation of the place through a micro dwelling event.

Back from Hoo, we emptied our bags and merged the few more collected objects to the ever-growing pile of material in Rupert’s cellar. Once more, we tough of how an archive can be sorted in a fluid continuum of entities with mobile destinies… Among the participants to Public Archaeology 2015, we are certainly not alone in this constant reflection on storage, metadata and the accessibility of repositories.

Three posts then revisited the Sound Mirrors on the Kent coast, bringing the materialities and immaterialities of our itineraries and the reinterpretation of purpose into view. The forms of these mirrors, designed to collect and condense sound, were once again activated, but here with different intentions. We concentrated on the colonization of the mirrors by lichens and myriad forms of life, from herons, reeds and grasses to our own occupation. These forms entered our vocabulary as vessels for astronomical observations and the transmission of knowledge between countries.

In a jump to Southwest China, the cast elements found their counterpart in a couple of rock-cut caves’ replicas. Yet another form enriched our repertoire, the recessed doorway cut into sandstone by a duo of stonemasons. But this time, our activity was not retrospective and interpretative anymore, it became prospective and experimental.

In our coiling timeline, miniature recessed doorways in the sandstone of Tunbridge wells, a prototype for our Chinese experiment, conflated with fragmentary ruins of the same shape back in the UK, in the chalk of Thanet, Kent.

This conflation of two destinations was discussed further in our post about London and Chongqing. An iterative sketch dialogue went on for a few months, a big part of our interaction, while Rupert was in London and Lia in Chongqing. Here we made connections between the forts and bunkers in the UK and the rock cut burial sites in China, treating them both as material descriptions of limits between life and death.

Yesterday, we went somewhat deeper into cross-cultural interpretations of the Past, and the formula we elaborated to bridge sign and matter. Our post presented epigraphy as the materialization of written commentaries in situ and a unique occasion to access textuality for craftsmen. But also, intertextual relations were woven between usually diachronic registers of language and contradictory contexts of enunciation (monumental inscription, didactic caption, graffiti, etc.).

To conclude, the monuments we visited, recorded, replicated and dissolved are not, after all, at the foreground of this research.

In the same way as they have been forgotten, we have remembered them for other purposes. Heritage institutions who aimed to conserve the monuments had to forget about the landscape. By walking in that landscape, we had to forget about the monuments.

The ideas, games of connections and fantasies we nourished while walking through the sites may seem readily outdated – as rightly noted in one blogger’s comment. Within heritage structures, what was yesterday an abandoned site becomes a place where circulation is permitted within defined parameters.

However, life breathes into and around the sites, we believe, when active occupation takes place – or fieldwork – if understood as a metaphor for processing the field, the soil.

Dog walkers on Thanet beach, Kent, stop by and see sudden temple ruins, while previous visitors to Hoo Fort on the Medway River had left wood for us to stay overnight. Traces of our predecessors or the inhabitants of our landscapes are everywhere.

But let us come back to the sites, to the ties that bound them over time with their surroundings. Crucially, the forts have accompanied a worldwide mutation in the way air, water, fire and earth were conceived. As for the caves, successive occupants over two thousand years produced countless speculations about their function.

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We give voice to the ‘other’ in the timeless dialogue held between the forts or caves, and surrounding extents of land and water.

Within the combinatory language of our collaboration, a steady code from which we can read out the outside world aloud, we allow a certain degree of uncertainty to be provided by the ‘other’ (another consciousness, that of the collaborator, or rather the chaotic works of nature on and around the sites).

Signs/laws/regularities are lost and found within that process, and a chain of transformation is generated.

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Our leitmotif, the recessed door, is replicated, fragmented and seen really in any material, context or scale.

Video of seashore stairs as symmetry with waves.

Finally, anthropic traces and natural formations respond to each other, none of them being attributed the main role, the two not anymore mutually exclusive.

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