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Hospital Ruins: Rebecca Solnit

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010 by Kostis Kourelis

Rebecca Solnit helped me articulate some threads of Punk Archaeology in her essay “Abandon,” in A Field Guide of Getting Lost (New York, 2005, pp. 87-109). Solnit describes her own discovery of punk at the age of 15, “Punk rock had burst into my life with the force of revelation, though I cannot now call the revelation much more than a tempo and an insurrectionary intensity that matched the explosive pressure in my psyche.” Solnit’s revelation was more than a musical discovery, it was a shift in incorporating the city within the realms of the natural wilderness. Punk directed Solnit and thousands of other youngsters in the 1980s to connect the surrounding post-industrial decay and the inner self. After all, isn’t that one of culture’s primarily roles, to negotiate between exterior and interior worlds? In the 1990s, selected neighborhoods went into choreopraphed reinventions. New York got Dinseyfied and hipsters became just marketing demographic. Attention shifted from archaeological realism (a desire to see things as they are and adjust aesthetics accordingly) to historicist melancholy (a desire to relive earlier generations’ angst through self-fashioning). Such developments make the 1980s seem like a distinct cultural period, where punk and archaeology united.

Reading through Patti Smith’s memoir made me re-read Solnit’s essay (read tomorrow’s posting). There is one particular detail that unites the two experiences, namely the incorporation of hospital ruins into a search for meaning. Solnit begins her essay with an adventure that, in retrospect, seems like a classic punk pursuit, searching for abandoned buildings and seeking to incorporate them into aesthetic life through photography, music and film.

“The most beautiful thing in the abandoned hospital was the peeling paint. The place had been painted again and again in pastels, and in the years of its abandonment these layers flaked into lozenges and curled scrolls, a different color on each side. The flakes clung to the walls like papery bark and piled up like fallen leaves. I remember walking down one long corridor illuminated only by light from distant doorways. There the paint dangled from ceiling and walls in huge wafers, and my passing stirred the air enough that some came drifting down down in my wake. The movie we made there was was too grainy to show such delicate details, but I remember one passage in it where I was coming down such a corridor and the shafts of light behind me were so strong on either side of my neck that my head seemed at times to detach from my body and hover above it. I had become its haunting wraith.

“That was when I was twenty, half my life ago, and a boy my age made the most politely democratic proposition I ever received: would I like to make a move with him in the ruined hospital near my San Francisco home? I would, we did, and we spent the next six years together in amazing tranquility and stayed close for a few years thereafter… It was the early 1980s, and looking back I can see that it was a sort of golden age of ruins.

“Coming of age in the heyday of punk, it was clear we were living at the end of something–of modernism, of the American dream, of the industrial economy, of a certain kind of urbanism. The evidence was all around us in the ruins of cities. The Bronx was block after block, mile after mile of ruin, as were even some Manhattan neighborhoods, housing projects across the country were in a state of collapse, many of the shipping piers that had been key to San Francisco’s and New York’s economies were abandoned, as was San Francisco’s big Southern Pacific rail yard and its two most visible breweries. Vacant lots like missing teeth gave a rough grin to the streets we haunted. Ruin was everywhere, for cities had been abandoned by the rich, by politics, by a vision of the future. Urban ruins were the emblematic place for this era, the places that gave punk part of its aesthetic, and like most aesthetics this one contained an ethic, a worldview with a mandate on how to act, how to live.” (pp. 87-88)

The image at the top is a photo by Camilo Jose Vergara, who will be the subject of a post later this week. The photo, “Henry Horner Homes, 2051 W. Lake St., Chicago, 1995” was featured in Vergara’s recent Slate article, “American Ruins: Nature is Taking back These Buildings,” (Jan. 15, 2010).

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Patti Smith: Archaeology of Life

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010 by Kostis Kourelis

In addition to the memoir (Just Kids) and the Steven Sebring documentary (Dream of Life), Patti Smith has produced another kind of life narrative, articulated through objects (see earlier posting here). An exhibit, Objects of Life at the Robert Miller Gallery features 14 objects that have been significant to Smith and her collaboration with Sebring. They include Smith’s childhood dress (left), her Land 250 Polaroid camera and a tambourine made by Robert Mapplethorpe. I hope to catch this show on its closing day (Feb. 6, 2010), when F&M takes its Art History majors to New York.

The exhibit is the first of three that will focus on various themes in Smith’s art (see press release). The film Dream of Life shows Smith obsessively engaged with objects. Objects of Life takes the documentary narrative into a different curatorial and archaeological dimension. Unlike traditional archaeological presentation, Sebring/Smith’s 14 objects point to inter-subjectivity possibilities and relate to the curatorial themes that Orhan Pamuk raises in the Museum of Innocence.

Patti Smith: Life as Narrative

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010 by Kostis Kourelis

Over the Christmas holiday, I chanced on the Patti Smith documentary that I had heard about on Studio 360. We had just unloaded the U-Haul, moving to Philadelphia, and the WHYY feature somehow reaffirmed the move to an an urban capital. Patti Smith herself has roots in Philadelphia, a fact that she talked about at length when I saw her perform exactly 8 years ago, at the Keswick Theater, Dec. 27, 2001. That was a special concert for me. I went with my best friend Yorgos and we were both amazed by the number of older people (like us) in the audience who even brought their children. Smith’s own mother, who lives nearby, was in the audience and both Smith’s sister and son played with her onstage (see a review here).

Soon after Patti Smith lost her husband (Fred Smith of MC5) and her brother (Todd) in 1994, REM’s Michael Stipe caller her out of the blue to offer condolences; he also recommended a photographer. Steven Sebring entered Patti Smith’s life a that moment, documenting the experiences of an ordinary human being rather than the legendary “godmother of punk.” Sebring’s filming became the documentary Patti Smith: Dream of Life that premiered on Dec. 30, 2009 on PBS’s Point of View. Dream of Life is hauntingly beautiful capturing the creases in the artist’s life. I also enjoyed Sebring’s focus on Smith’s children, especially Jackson Smith who is married to Meg Ryan (of the White Stripes). In many ways, Patti Smith’s story after her marriage to Fred Smith is a life centered around Detroit (Saint Clair Shores). Documentaries on rock musicians tend to follow generic lines. Dream of Life breaks away from the mold and becomes a creative enterprise in its own right.

Patti Smith has also just published an autobiographical work on her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe (1969 booth photo, top). Just Kids was released today (Ecco, 2010). Just as Dream of Life takes us to the period after Smith’s New York apotheosis, Just Kids takes us to the period before. For a review of the book, see Janet Maslin, “Bohemian Soul Mates in Obscurity,” New York Times (Jan. 18, 2010), pp. C1, C8. Maslin points out that Smith’s growing up with Mapplethorpe took place before many of the disturbing pictures that earned Mapplethorpe his late notoriety (and censorship by the NEA). I am looking forward to matching the Sebring documentary with Smith’s own reflections. After all, Smith is just as much a writer as a rocker. Returning to the home where I spent my own growing up, I’m especially susceptible to such stories. It was in this old/new home that I first admired Patti Smith.

London Calling

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009 by Kostis Kourelis

It seems only yesterday that the landmark LP London Calling by the Clash turned 25, an event celebrated by a re-release of the album with new video and footage. On December 13, London Calling is turning 30 this time. And at the ripe age of 30, the Clash turns archaeological. The anniversary will be marked by the auctioning of the Clash’s original art work, the classic album cover with Paul Simonon smashing his Fender Precision bass on stage at the New York Palladium. There’s lots to say about Simonon’s instruments, including a Rickenbacker given to him by Patti Smith, but basically the white Fender Precision was iconic. The 1979 image contains its own archaeology, namely, The Who smashing their instruments in the 1965 performance of My Generation at the Beat Club, as well as, Sid Vicious hitting an audience member with his own Fender Precision bass. The bass that Simonon smashed in the photo had been newly bought in 1979. Simonon regretted destroying this instrument because it proved to be one of his best sounding ones. The very bass has become a relic and it now resides at the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame. You can read the entire history of Simonon’s 11 basses (scroll down to Paul Simonon Bass Story 1976-2008 here ).

At any rate, Bonhams auction house is selling the original London Calling art work by Ray Lowry valued at $100,000 (Sale 16905 Lot 26), and two autographed photos valued at $500 and $300 (Sale 16905, Lot 293 & 294). Ray Lowry, unfortunately, passed away in 2008. After the dissolution of the Clash, by the way, Paul Simonon has turned to a career in painting.

Hawass, the Greatful Dead, Beyonce

Thursday, November 26th, 2009 by Kostis Kourelis

In a recent biographical article on Zahi Hawass, we learn that the most powerful man in Egyptian archaeology attended a Grateful Dead concert at the pyramids during the mid-1970s, see Ian Parker, “The Pharaoh,” The New Yorker (Nov. 16, 2009), p. 52ff. A couple of months ago, I posted on the Pink Floyd concert in Pompeii (1971), pondering the connections between rock and archaeology. Parker’s reference to Hawass’ pyramids concert attendance made a nice match to the photo on the left, from a few days ago, when Hawass guided Beyonce at Giza. Beyonce’s “I Am…” tour has raised some controversy in the Islamic world, see Art Daily (Nov. 10, 2009). Although I used this news story as a conversation piece in my Islamic class, I will make no comments on the irony of this picture (the Egyptian cowboy archaeologist and the scarfed sex idol). Hawass spent a few years in Philadelphia as a grad student at Penn. His appreciation of American pop culture is not surprising, nor are his own super-star ambitions.

I will simply take a moment to remember the Grateful Dead concert, which took place in September 1978. The performance at the Giza Light and Sound theater was followed by three shows in Cairo. Interestingly enough, highlights of this Egyptian tour were released a year ago, see David Fricke, “The Dead Rock the Pyramids,” Rolling Stone (Oct. 16, 2008). The CD title, “Rocking the Cradle/Egypt 1978,” presumably refers to Egypt as the cradle of civilization. I am not a fan of the Grateful Dead, but I appreciate the inclusion of oud player Hamza El Din in their line up. El Din had appeared in the 1964 Newport Folk Festival, and in the 1980s/90s he taught ethnomusicology in various American universities. The 1978 Grateful Dead concert must be added to the saga of rock archaeology.

Performing the Margins: Punk and Place

Monday, September 7th, 2009 by Bill Caraher

Even as Kostis was conjuring his posts on Pink Floyd at Pompeii and the Scorpions at Mytilene, another iconic locus of punk rock magic is reaching the end of its life.  The Uptown Bar & Cafe in Minneapolis is apparently slated to close sometime this year.  Its octogenarian owner, Frank Toonen, is looking to sell the bar to secure the financial future for his family (a noble cause, if there ever was one).  The bar hosted virtually every major punk(ish) rock band to come out of Minneapolis (Soul Asylum, The Replacements, Hüsker Dü) and ranked as a local CBGBs or Max’s Kansas City.  Ironically, the bar will be torn down for a three story retail space as the Uptown neighborhood continues a process of re-gentrification (for a nice history of the neighborhood).

To be honest, I’ve never been to the Uptown Bar & Cafe (nor Uptown, for that matter), but the story of the Uptown Bar & Cafe caught my eye in the context of our ongoing conversation about punk and place.  Many of the most storied punk establishments established themselves in seemingly marginal urban spaces made available by white flight and the post-war growth of suburbs and now confront the reopening of the urban center to economic development which in many ways challenged both economic opportunities made available by the marginal status of various neighborhoods and urban locales as well as the gritty and explicitly anti-suburban ascetic that punk cultivated. The creative risks exploited by punk rockers as they returned to the urban center from the security of suburban “garage” demanded an authenticity of the punk experience that cannot be maintained when surrounded by boutique shopping spots and chain clothing retailers who seemingly revel in the make-believe character of the consumer experience.

The authenticity of the urban experience is not just a hallmark of punk music. Today, it is seen most visibly in hip-hop music where credibility is tied a performer’s ability to maintain their ties to economically and socially marginalized segments of urban areas.  (As hip-hop has globalized, it has shown that the performance of authenticity has transferred from marginalized areas within the American city to marginalized areas of the globe.  Take, for example, the Somali-Canadian rapper K’naan who mocks the urban posturing of North American rappers by contrasting their claims and experiences to his upbringing in Somalia).

Common’s song “The Corner” is a another great meditation on the space of performance in contemporary hip-hop.  The song juxtaposes Common’s lyrics about his experiences on “the corner” with nostalgia tinged lyrics of the radical spoken-word poetry collective “The Last Poets” who note:

…The corner was our Rock of Gibraltar, our Stonehenge
Our Taj Mahal, our monument…

Of course, in hip-hop the corner invokes more than just an urban space associated with drug dealing, informal social gatherings, and, perhaps more properly, the performance of dozens between rappers that formed the basis for the combative aspects of modern hip-hop music.  The corner invokes the crossroads which was an iconic symbol in American Blues music.  Most famously, the crossroads was where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil in exchange for musical talent.

Crossroads represent both central places where diverse paths cross, but also liminal sites where clearly-defined spheres of control and authority break-down or lapse entirely.  It is not surprising, for example, that Oedipus met the Sphinx at a crossroads (see: S. I Johnston, “Crossroads,” ZPE 88 (1991)217-24) .

To return, then to punk and place, the impending loss of the Uptown Cafe & Bar (and other punk landmarks) stands out as the return of marginal spaces to the control of the center.  In many cities in the US, this has manifested itself as reclaiming the marginalized zone of an urban core neglected in the post-war migration to the suburbs for the commercial, capitalist, gentrified space of the new suburban centers (i.e. let’s make the cities look like we imagined them when we built those surrogate cities: suburban shopping malls).

To bring my archaeological interests more fully into the conversation, I’ll just point out that for the last 7 years I’ve been working with the team of the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project to study a community situated at a crossroads along the coast of southeastern Cyprus.  Peripheral to the main centers of power on the island, there is reason to think that the ancient community situated in what is now the coast zone of the village of Pyla (another liminal space!) served as a local crossroads community.  David Pettegrew’s work at a similar site in the Eastern Corinthia commonly referred to as “Cromna” is another example of a crossroads community.  These liminal spaces situated neither clearly within an urban core or in the romanticized space of the rural periphery defy categorization.  The complexity and density of the artifact assemblages found in these areas press to the limit methods devised to document more dispersed kinds of activity in the countryside.  At the same time, the absence of a built up center with known, monumental architecture, makes it challenging to justify large scale, systematic excavation.

The marginal status of crossroads places have made them a kind of improvisational space for archaeological fieldwork.  In this way, they echo the marginal spaces of desiccated, post-war, urban core which became the places of punk performance, or the ill-defined and marginal space of the corner which became a zone dominated by ancient and modern sphinxes.   Punk archaeology revels in the marginal, ambiguous, ambivalent and, in many ways, dangerous spaces that only become central through the ephemeral performance.

Scorpions in Mytilene

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009 by Kostis Kourelis

I want to thank Ιφιμέδεια for commenting on my last post Pink Floyd and Pompeii and bringing to my attention a recent controversy involving archaeology and rock. On July 4, 2009, the German heavy metal band Scorpions performed in the medieval castle of Mytilene. See the promotion for the event here. The castle has been used for cultural events, but a rock concert proved to be controversial. The concert was initially canceled by the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) on the ground that it would threaten the archaeological site. After great pressure from the Prefecture of Lesvos and the local community, KAS overturned its decision.

When I started visiting Greece in college, at the height of my punk rock phase, I was struck by the sheer absence of punks. For some interesting sociological reasons, the rock underground of the 1980s was monopolized by hard rock and heavy metal. Bands like Metallica, Iron Maiden and Scorpions are a huge deal in Greece (and also Turkey). A quick walk through Exarcheia makes this clear even today. My friend Yorgos happened to be flying into Istanbul a few years ago with Iron Maiden on the plane. The fans had taken over the entire Istanbul airport; it was quite a scene. The simple explanation for the traction between Eastern Mediterranean youth and heavy metal has to do with the ornamental language of heavy metal guitar and its similarities to traditional Eastern music (rembetiko, etc.) The gendered roles of heavy metal, I think, also relate to the scene’s appeal with Greek/Turkish men. The long hair and distinctively male bonds raise some additional issues of a distinct homoeroticism.

For whatever reason, Scorpions are national heroes for a large section of Greece’s underground. The concert promotion in Mytilene makes a strong visual juxtaposition between the historicity of rock and medieval architecture: “two grand legends of music and history meet this summer in a concert that will leave an epoch.” The legendary rock band performs in a monument of equal age and cultural gravity. Another clip on YouTube (here) fascinated me further and made me laugh (I wondered if it might be a joke). It raises an interesting question, namely what happens to local society when a legendary merchandise giant comes into your small town.

Pink Floyd in Pompeii

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009 by Kostis Kourelis

Bill Caraher posted on the 40th Anniversary of Woodstock and the event’s implications for landscape archaeology (see here). Thinking about the archaeology of concert locations, I was reminded of a performance that Pink Floyd filmed inside the ancient amphitheater of Pompeii in 1971, which, interestingly enough, was conceived as “an anti-Woodstock film” by director Adrian Maben. The film is not very well known, although it occasionally turns up on PBS fund drives (see YouTube excerpt here). Live at Pompeii includes psychedelic images interspersed in the final editing. One of the most memorable shots, as far as I can remember, involved laying out Pink Floyd’s equipment along a straight line. The drums, amplifiers, guitars, speakers, etc. make an interesting line of monumental material culture. It was around this time, that Pink Floyd also collaborated with Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni in Zabriskie Point (1970), filmed in Death Valley National Park, California. One of the most memorable scenes in the movie is the explosion of a middle-class home with Pink Floyd’s soundtrack on the background. Pink Floyd also performed a controversial concert in 1989, this time, afloat a barge at Saint Mark’s Square in Venice (see YouTube excerpt here, with the Doge’s palace flashing in the background).

Archaeological sites have grown to be popular venues for concerts. Only this last month (August 5, 2009), the Greek Ministry of Culture organized “Greece by Moonlight,” opening 81 sites to the general public for some romantic moon-watching. Some “Greece by Moonlight” sites featured concerts. Moon-gazing was a typical past-time on the Acropolis through the 1930s. My mother, who grew up in Plaka, once told me that the Acropolis was not only continuously open to the public but also the romantic hot spot. This became the narrative structure in George Seferis novel Six Nights on the Acropolis, published posthumously in 1974. The Athens Festival every summer fills up the Roman theater of Herodes Atticus below the Acropolis. But interestingly enough, rock concerts are rarely hosted on Greek archaeological sites. The outdoor theater of Lycabettus is where those venues are held; the unpreposessing steel structure was designed by a great architect from the 1930s, Takis Zenetos, the only Greek to study at the Bauhaus. In addition to the concert series on Lycabettus, Rock Wave has become the annual Greek Woodstock. Before the 2004 Olympics, the three-day rock festival took place at different venues, like the old velodrome. Since 2004, the festival is held outside of Athens, in Malakasa, on the 37th km of the Athens-Lamia National Highway. Much of the audience camps out in this atypically extra-urban terrain. In the future, I’m sure, it will offer a case study of landscape archaeology.

Finally, some words about Pink Floyd’s role in punk archaeology. Many rock listeners would find Pink Floyd to be anti-punk. After Dark Side of the Moon (1973), Pink Floyd became the archetypical example of classic stadium rock that caused the very punk rebellion. Toby Manning discusses this issue, “I Hate Pink Floyd: Pink Floyd and Punk,” in Pink Floyd: The Rough Guide (2006), p. 107. Most famously, John Lydon wore a Pink Floyd t-shirt with “I Hate” scrolled across it, when Malcolm McClaren first spotted him on a street in London. McClaren turned Lydon into Johnny Rotten, the lead singer of the Sex Pistols. Despite the apocryphal origins, Pink Floyd was extremely influential to the art-rock strand of punk. And amusingly in 2005, John Lydon declared that his 1975 t-shirt was a joke and that he actually loved Pink Floyd.

Woodstock, Landscape, and Archaeology

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009 by Bill Caraher

A few weeks ago Kostis mentioned that he thought that archaeology was “a post hippie” discipline.  A certain tendency to emphasize rural places, the integrated, almost spiritual, character of landscapes, community engagement, and political activism would seem to evoke many of the central ideals of the hippie movement, albeit within a far more structured environment.  (It’s an open issue whether punk shared the celebrated spontaneity of the hippie movement or parodied it).

This weekend, the New York Times offered a shortish article: “Woodstock: A Moment of Muddy Grace“.  Aside from well-worn ironic observation that the memory of Woodstock became a commodity almost as soon as the festival was over, there was a short paragraph that included one interesting line:

With the 40th anniversary of Woodstock looming — so soon? — the commemorative machinery is clanking into place, and the nostalgia is strong. There’s a Woodstock Festival museum now at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts and a recently built concert hall at what was the concert site, Max Yasgur’s farm (though the original Woodstock hillside has been left undeveloped).

The notion that the original hillside would be preserved is an interesting example of how the absence of development could nevertheless represent the commidification of a particular landscape.  Paralleling the desire to preserve battlefields, archaeological landscapes, and other places of cultural significance, the archaeology of absence evokes both the notion of a sacred precinct as well as haunting ideas of ritual abandonment.  In the hyper-commodified world of Woodstock nostalgia, the protected hillside stands out both as an ironic and highly structured place of commemoration.

Perhaps this is another characteristic that separates Punk Archaeology from its post-hippie variants.  The hippie movement, for all its energy, has long been overrun by a kind of crude commercialism so even an archaeologically motivated decision like preserving the famous Woodstock hillside cannot stand outside the discourse of capitalism and gain.

Has Punk remained more authentic?  Certainly the battle to save Punk landmarks like CBGBs has been less successful.  The urban foundation of Punk perhaps created landmarks in an environment which had a more ephemeral character.  Change was anticipated and expected in urban landscapes.  The countryside was idealized as unchanging and efforts to commemorate the countryside typically involve limiting the impact of human activities or even marking it off entirely.  Archaeology, however, relies upon the traces of change through time to document human culture.  The urbanism of Punk contributes to its resistance to commodification (and makes its appeals to nostalgia more ironic still) and preserves it for a different method of documentation later.  Punk Archaeology.

It’s Only a Matter of Time

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009 by Kostis Kourelis

The Pyla Koutsopetria Archaeological Project has released Trench Sounds, the first archaeological example of podcast vérité ever released (to my knowledge) on webspace. The experiment sprang from Bill Caraher’s interests in punk archaeology, in new technologies and in documentary theory. Trench Sounds is profound in its simplicity, like an Andy Warhol movie (e.g. The Kiss, 1963). Trench Sounds is a 10-minute recording of the sounds produced in an excavation trench this last season at PKAP, Cyprus. We hear the irregular percussion of the scraping trowel, archaeological interpretation, but also the serendipitous small talk that makes up the social space of a trench. It might not mean much to many listeners, and I suspect some may wander “so what” or even be slightly annoyed. What I like about Trench Sounds is that it addresses time. It rescues a mere 10 minutes of archaeological life. It enlightens the non-archaeologist but also raises questions for the archaeologist. Isn’t excavation all about the exploration of time, in reverse sequence, in stratified layers and unstratified jumbles?

I know many archaeologists that have been influenced by minimalism. My two mentors, unbeknownst to the reader of their scholarship, have been affected by minimalism, directly or indirectly. Cecil L. Striker’s meticulous method, his love for the abstract beauty of dendrochronology and the incisive excavations by hand drill, not to mention his architectural taste is one example. Frederick A. Cooper, a lover of Proust and Le Corbusier, once told me that John Cage inspired his archaeological directions (especially into computers). Both Striker and Cooper are masters of precision, both are craftsmen of a post-war America, a time when the U.S. lead both the realms of technology and the arts. Like their contemporary artists, they turned method into ammunition against the superficialities of American culture, its consumerism and arbitrary values.

But I return to Trench Sounds. Listening to the podcast made me wonder. Why hasn’t anyone written an archaeological opera, or an archaeological performance piece? Alternatively, why hasn’t anyone written an archaeological report where time as quantity becomes the manipulated medium. Consider the new opera Timberbrit, where composer Jacob Cooper slows down songs by Britney Spear and Justin Timberlake. The technique is called “time-stretching.” Consider the production of Hamlet by the Wooster Group, where the 1964 TV version with Richard Burton is re-timed into Shakespearean meter, projected onto a screen and replicated by live actors (see Scott Shepperd’s/Hamlet’s interview on Studio 360). Consider Bruce Nauman in the Venice Biennale. Consider Bill Viola’s deconstruction of Renaissance space with his time-delayed videos, or Gary Hill’s fragmented utterings. And finally, consider Jeff Wall’s 2003 project Fieldwork (above), which takes up the mysteries of excavation directly. These are only contemporary examples of the minimalist (or post-minimalist) tradition. Such works have not really flavored the archaeological mindset — as far as I can see.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I would like to read an archaeological field report (not an opera, a play, or a movie) that intentionally speeds up or slows down stratigraphic time. I’m imagining a fictitious collapse of archaeology’s double time 1) the time taken for contexts to stratify and 2) the time taken by excavators to peel them off. This would be a biographical, documentary and semi-fictitious genre. And I’m not talking about the overly self-referential methods of post-processusalist archaeology, but a work of postmodern literature. Or maybe I don’t really know what I’m talking about. Trench Sounds is a work of imagination, a dream, a reality show, a fragmented experience that brings PKAP’s field season into the neighborhood of conceptual art.