Sunday, August 20, 2017

History, Memory - and Statues


I've been away from the News for a good while.
There was the frantic scramble to get repairs to my trailer completed, all the packing and loading for the Newfoundland trip to L'Anse aux Meadows. Departing for that the end of the first week in July. Home from that a mere two days and off to Scotland for the project work here. (It's the morning of my last day at SSW.)
So basically well over 7 weeks since I've had any time, often actually even no ability, to check the News. So all realize my perspective is extremely limited to isolated flashes.

I had caught pieces of the insanity taking place in the United States of America right now, triggered around a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville VA.


Now, I follow Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station.
His latest piece, posted up yesterday (Saturday August 2017) bears reading :
'No Man's Land'





 I submitted the following as a comment to Jim's (insightful as always) piece:

I am taking part in an artist's workshop, mix of Scots / Canadians / Americans, the topic of sculpture as memorials came up.
I am personally deeply involved with history (admittedly pre-Medieval primarily), so often consider the role of object within culture. From this standpoint, do consider any object does remain a reflection of the time and setting which it was created in. * Meaning * may shift considerably through time. (The Great Pyramid was constructed with considerable slave labour as well. Should it be torn down because of this?)

One of the Americans at the table suggested that instead of taking down historic monuments, these should be *non destructively* modified to reflect a modern perception of those historic events.
In this way, history is retained, but *meaning* may be modified.

Given Jim's clarion call to action, this suggestion may easily be seen as feeble appeasement. Obviously, the type of narrow focus, distortion of proven fact and willful ignorance being demonstrated can not be easily combated by a 'gentle' approach.
So clearly, as so many commenters have stated, this has little to actually do with removing a statue.

I do caution all to consider the material aspect of the Future. We North Americans are far too quick to destroy and cart off to rubble the marks of our past. Without some marks of our actions, both the good - and the very bad, how are coming generations to have any perspective framework to allow themselves to make their own decisions?

As much as delving into political commentary is something I do actually attempt to keep limited on this series, readers may see how the above actually dove tails nicely on to recent postings here :  Art at SSW - #1 Object & Age / # 2 Object & Context

Saturday, August 19, 2017

the Galloway Hord


At the National Museum of Scotland - Edenburgh :


Lower groupping of arm 'rings'

Upper grouping of ingots and worked strips

Revealed in the two cases above :
- Several of the ingots were clearly made in the same top poured mould. There was a distinctive knob feature seen, from a deeper cut to one end of the mould.
- The arm rings were all considerably thicker in cross section than I previously thought. (Exact L x W x H x weight is rarely indicated.)
- Seeing the ingots and the arm rings side by side certainly suggested that the arm rings were made by simply hammering flat the ingots. The sizes of the bracelets was very uniform, and the volume of metal from ingot into ring was very consistent.
- You also can see that all of the 'rings' are in fact flattened strips - not formed into C shapes at all.
This might easily have been done to keep the package of silver small for burial. That many of the bracelets have been deliberately turned over and squished flat on one or both does suggest that all the silver, worked or ingot, was only intended as silver weight.

Pair of fine silver hinged strap orniments - considered very unusual for VA finds

These large glass pieces were described as 'beads'
The large flattened disks were roughly 3 - 4 cm in diameter, with hole diameters approaching 1 cm.
The largest, to the lower right, was almost double even that mass of glass.
Taken together, this huge size suggests to me that these might easily have been intended as spindle whorls.

Not everything from the Hord was on display. Especially most of the more 'unusual' objects (likely still under preservation work).
For more images - go to the Galloway Hord at the NMS



We have to raise £1.98 million to save the Hoard, and in addition we need  to raise additional funds to properly conserve, research and prepare the Galloway Hoard for display, (NMS web site)
 The Hoard was uncovered by a single individual, so it would fall under Scottish 'Treasure Trove' law. It appears that although technically all  such finds revert 'ownership' to the Scottish Crown, in practice, an independant pannel determines a 'market value', which museums normally pay to the original finder.


Images :
The National Museum of Scotland allows for full photography in all its galleries.
All the images above were taken by myself on August 9, 2017
Although captured as photographs, the copyright to the text panels really rests with the NMS.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Art at SSW 2 - Object & Context

'As the Object is removed from its original CONTEXT

It's Meaning is now OBSCURED'

Working so much with historic objects, this is a concept that I deal with constantly.
( Long term readers may have seen the (old!) article 'Aunt Marthas and Damthings'. )

- Central to the grouping above  is an unknown object, seemingly exposed via excavation.
- To the right top is a 'well known' ancient object (interpretation by Graham Taylor).
- On the lower right is an unknown object, a bronze or brass disk bearing a cross like mark on one side.

Removed from their original contexts, what can we truthfully say about any of these?
Are ALL of these religious symbols?
- Most would certainly ascribe symbolic meanings to the figure, with its exagerated female characteristics. But just what did the original maker intend?
- The disk becomes more problematic. A Western / Christian perspective might easily attribute symbolic meaning. But is that the perspective of the viewer - rather than the maker?
- The partially exposed object? Can you easily assign deeper meaning (or exclude the possibility)?


For me personally, 'Art' is about Communication.
No matter how grand or insightful your concept, if the intent is not communicated effectively to the viewer, your work fails. The exercise of creation may have value to you personally, but at best it remains self indulgent.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Art at SSW 1 - Object & Age


'When does Old Junk - become Archaeology?'

Regular Readers will know that  I am often commenting on the Object within a Material Culture, especially within a Historic framework.

The grouping in the image above was used to illustrate the point on our 'working table' over the current Artist Residency at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop.

The upper group of five objects was gathered on a field walk through farm land to the east of SSW at Lumsden (from  left to right) :
- A broken piece of roofing slate
(Age unknown, as slate roofs have been built in scotland from at least from Historic (if not to Ancient) times through to modern construction.)
-  An iron (?) wagon or farm machine hitch fitting, with a much decayed block of wood still attached
(Use of a hex head bolt suggests post 1860. The nails are 'semi wire' type, with cylindrical bodies but flat and tapered 'cut' points, again suggesting post about 1860 to about 1880.)
- Unknown material as waste
(Has the appearance of a brown glazed ceramic, but is much to light weight to be composed of clay. Top side is smooth and semi polished looking, underside course texture with embedded sand grains. Too hard for a wax, may be some kind of resin?)
- Fragment of glazed ceramic
(A course grained light grey clay body topped with a white glaze, decorated with light blue lines. )
- Broken piece of ceramic pipe
(A very rough textured clay with simple mottled brown glaze on the surface, a section of a cylinder. Other pieces were found - including a full S bend fitting that would suit installing a toilet. Suggests Victorian / +1880 manufacture.)
This group was found in a steeply sloped corner of a recently plowed field. To my eye this looks like an area only recently turned to cultivation. Perhaps once the 'corner dump' area for the current farm. Could also be the plowed over remnants of a much older farm cottage?

The lower group of three were gathered while breaking up scrap cast iron (left to right) :
- Ring of lead seal
- Joint section of cast iron pipe, showing many paint layers on the exterior
- Lengths of what appears to be hemp (?) fibre cording / packing

Although other than the mystery material, the rough dating for the found objects would appear to place them to some point between 1860 - 1880.
In Scotland, all are clearly nothing more than 'old trash'.
In Canada, objects of that age are often placed in museums.

How old, how removed from current popular culture, must an object be before it is considered 'History'?
How far past before it's recovery becomes Archaeology?

Stone Foundations - East of Lumsden / SSW (view uphill towards South)
 Further up that same hill, just about 500 m to the East of SSW (to the north end of Lumsden) we came across a group of what certainly appeared to be three square stone outlines with interior depressions. It was hard not to see these features as the foundation lines for three small, linked structures. The interior sizes were about 4 x 4 meters.
Stone Foundation - North end of group - Kelly for scale
I took most note of the most northerly positioned of the group. Two large stones were inside, the larger laying flat and about 1.5 + metres long. The second was set upright, with the roughly flat surface set at what I would have found comfortable 'striking height'. There was a clear gap in the line   of outlining stones in the SE corner - suggesting an entrance (?)

I certainly found these features to be worthy of 'Archaeology'.

????
 

February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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