Art and Archaeology: The Function of the Artist in Interpreting Material Culture

Cordula Hansen

    Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral Thesis

    Abstract

    Following recent suggestions by archaeologists that contemporary art practice may be of benefit to their understanding of the past, this study examines the potential role of art practitioners in archaeological research. In this context, the role of the artists in interpreting material culture, or archaeological evidence, is of particular interest. To contextualise the study, the literature review identifies the main texts directly related to the relationship between art and archaeology, and evaluates current sources from the field of archaeology, and anthropology for comparative purposes. The researcher's own art practice is then utilised as an exploratory method to develop some of the issues which arise in the relationship between the disciplines of art and archaeology. The concept of 'experience' and the area of theoretical archaeology are identified as the areas in which a connection with art practice may be most relevant. Both terms are then explained to provide a philosophical basis for the second part of the dissertations. A brief outline of theoretical archaeology is followed by an explication of the philosophical movement of phenomenology, which forms the basis for phenomenological archaeology, a movement concerned with sense experience and perception of archaeological sites and artefacts. In order to examine the current relationship between art practice and archaeology, the Foucauldian method of discourse analysis is employed. An analysis of the recent debate in archaeology shows that anthropologists have been engaged in direct collaborations with artists, while archaeologists have concentrated on interpreting artworks, the artefactual products of art practice, rendering the artist a passive component in the discourse. The subsequent analysis of practical statements by art practitioners, namely the Irish 'Umha Aois' experimental bronze casting group reveals that the practitioners do not insists on their disciplinary identity in the same way archaeologists do in their discourse. It further outlines the difference in attitude held by artists and archaeologists towards artefact and agency. The study argues that a relationship between art practice and archaeologists is therefore contingent on the temporary suspension of disciplinary identities in favour of common research interests.
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    Supervisors/Advisors
    • Jordan, Peter, Supervisor
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2008

    Keywords

    • Material culture

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