Art/Archaeology: Engaging Critically with Process

1 July 2008

Plenary Session of the
Sixth World Archaeological Congress

co-organized with Blaze O'Connor

‘Process…gives us opportunities to eliminate the Eye and the Spectator… ’
- Brian O’Doherty, Inside the White Cube

Both art and archaeology are human practices and sensibilities which appreciate the fluid role of process and its integral relationship to method in the mediation of visual/material propositions. This plenary session addresses a series of questions that cross-cut these two practices. As Paul Klee asserted, ‘Art does not reproduce the visible, but makes visible’. Is this also true of archaeology? If so, what qualifies this archaeological process when compared with art – that is, what are the expectations, preconceptions and agendas we bring to ‘doing archaeology’? And do these change if we, instead, think of this process as ‘making archaeology’? In ‘making things visible’, archaeology has been critiqued as overly ocularcentric in its abstraction of visual knowledge (text, images, etc.) from materials. What opportunities do synergies and collaborations with the contemporary arts offer in critiquing and undercutting this process? As archaeology has become enmeshed in contemporary politicised ecologies, has there been a turn from practical issues regarding matter/form relations to ethical issues of material/force relations? How can partnerships with the contemporary arts help encourage rigorous and reflexive process in the articulation of an archaeological sensibility in the world? This plenary offers a moment of critical reflection upon the relationships between archaeological and artistic practice and the relevancy of such interdisciplinary fusions to the study of the human condition for today whether conceived as past, contemporary or future.


Doug Bailey (University of Cardiff)

Barbara Dawson (Director of the Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane)

Kevin O’Dwyer (Director, Sculpture in the Parklands)

Colin Renfrew (University of Cambridge)