Back again. I am probably more active on the blog these days as I need to finish writing a review, which means that I feel like writing/reading/doing anything but that 🙂
Therefore I decided to do at least something useful and make a list of 5 projects I really liked over the years. They are inter-disciplinary projects, going from pebbles to clothes, but they all have something in common: looking at the things familiar to us, everyday, overlooked objects in a new light. After the “5 books list”, this goes like this:
1. The East Devon Pebblebed Landscape. (Director Prof. Christopher Tilley)
An inter-disciplinary team that gathers anthropologists, archaeologists, material culture specialists, landscape specialists, locals and a dog. As they write on the website, the project starts from the questions:
“What’s underneath our feet? How do we find out about that which lies beneath the mantle of soil and vegetation that covers the ground on which we walk? How can we make sense of the distinctive changes in the patterning of plant life that we see around us as we move around? Why do oak and lime and ash grow here? Why does pine and birch and gorse grow there? … What might the different colours and textures and shapes of the rocks and stones encountered in the landscape mean? There is always a story to tell, sense to be made out of the places and the land on which we dwell, and through that very process of dwelling, come to have existential meaning and significance for us.”
So they looked at colours, and textures and materials, at sunsets and sunrises etc to write stories about “‘natural’ places and landscapes”.
2. The Metropolitan Archaeology project. (Tamás Budha, András Tábori, Miklós Rácz)
2 artists and an archaeologist (with a background in architecture) decided to turn their walks through the city into a fruitful activity, with an archaeological twist. And this is how this project of contemporary urban archaeology was born. To quote the authors, “Archaeology means to look, to name, to keep and to reinterpret for the contemporary society things which are at a distance from our time, and that have lost their function and meaning one way or another”. They photographed and wrote about: rusty street signs, the architecture of downtown abandoned bars, pavements, metal gates intertwined with tree trunks etc.
For a selection of photos and more about their thoughts: http://totb.ro/foto-istoria-de-sub-nasul-nostru-arheologia-urbana/
3. The Tucson Garbage Project. (University of Arizona, Dr. Rathje and his team)
As the title says, it was a project about garbage: bags, diapers, CDs, food etc. 30 tons of them. The project started from the premise that archaeologists are used to getting dirty anyway, and that a garbage area is a gold mine for information: “No society on earth had ever discarded such rich refuse, much of it packaging which identified the contents it once held by brand, type, cost, quantity, ingredients, nutrient content, and more.” Starting from the basic question “What do we throw away?”, the goal of the project was meant to address a wider and much debated topic: that of recycling and of our impact on the environment. Some of the questions asked were: “Are we really doing what we say we are?” “Are paper bags really better than plastic ones in terms of bio-degradation?” “Are fast food packaging and disposable diapers such an important part of the landfill?” and so on. In the end, it is a great behavioral project, that brought together archaeologists and sociologists in order to highlighted certain patterns.
4. The ethnographic collection Marius Matei
It is quite fashionable nowadays to collect or re-interpret traditional clothes and costumes, to give them a contemporary touch. As I enjoy this trend of re-creating new ties with old traditions I picked one of the projects, and this is it. The reason I chose it is that I like the way the facebook page is set up (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Colectia-etnografica-Marius-Matei/316564711778598): besides a collection of very beautiful costumes and pieces of decoration, they have photographs of decorative motifs. They are shown as bits and pieces, looking almost like puzzle pieces, which makes them great fragments from stories that wait to be written.
5. An Archaeology of Socialism (Victor Buchli)
Last but not least is something which might not be considered a project per se, but nevertheless I include it here. It is an endeavour that brought together material culture studies, architecture, history, archaeology and social anthropology. He chose to study the Narkomfin Communal House,and showed how architecture was tied to projects of nation-building. Basically, the layout of the rooms, the set up of the furniture, and the objects that filled the house were designed based on Marxist understandings of material culture, with the final goal of “overturning capitalist and patriarchal social structures”.
Great book for anyone interested.
PS: the photo is taken from another cute project, one that is designed to photograph people reading/covered by their favourite books. All with an artsy twist. (Project by Povesti din sertar)