Nicky Bird

Archaeology of the Ordinary: Reading the Landscape

Papple CottagesThe Peter Potter Gallery’s invitation to create a show for their Lost Landscapes programme had a number of appeals – the working title Archaeology for the Ordinary hooked me, and the pressure of producing new work in a short, sharp timescale was also appealing. But where to start and how to avoid the risk of repeating oneself – artistically speaking?

Artworks always seem to start with conversations, and then following in someone else’s footsteps. Archaeologists David Connolly and Maggie Struckmeier tell me about a job they had to assess the archaeology value of a set of abandoned labourers’ cottages. They send me a copy of their report and also take me back to Papple Cottages in which there is rather poignant writing on the walls. For example, a K Boyle inscribes “we left Papple Farm on Thursday the 30th September 1954”. How then to avoid the seductive sense of nostalgia and dereliction? How to work with questions that archaeologists are left with once their job is done? And the cottages are all now under offer…

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