“Over the last three decades, I have led parallel and interweaving careers in visual art and archaeology. Through this, I have developed a transdisciplinary practice informed by research in the fields of geography, contemporary archaeology and art. I am a founding member of The Praxis Collective, an international group of artists and transdisciplinary practitioners seeking new ways to address contemporary issues through grounded theory and art/science collaboration. My current practice draws on deep mapping and the deep time of the Anthropocene to delve into the past, in the present, with an eye to the future.” – John Sunderland
Questions of Good and Evil
“I see the discipline of archaeology, the study of the material past, as a product of the enlightenment, with all its encumbrances of colonialism and material appropriation, it has developed into a highly evidence-based enquiry into materiality in many forms (ecological and cultural) and scales from the microscopic to the changing global landscape.
In the context of this project, I find myself considering that these philosophies and methodologies seem at odds with what would have been the prevailing philosophies or theologies of the times that the archaeologists and researchers in Ancient Connections are investigating. This disparity is interesting when considering both movement and the sacred in terms of how someone in the medieval period might have responded to encountering something old or unusual in the landscape. We cannot truly know what went on in the minds of our ancestors but rather than deciphering materials and places in terms of classifications and significations of evidence, narratives may well have turned to the supernatural or the sacred, to questions of good and evil, signs or portents. Objects and materials may have evoked fear or reverence verging on the ecstatic.
In Search of the Uncanny
“Taking this into account, I will undertake a contemporary pilgrimage from one archaeological excavation to the other in St Davids and Ferns. To mimic the medieval experience of travel overland, I will cycle and walk, as cycling would mean travelling at a pace similar to a horse or horse and cart. The purpose of this journey is to make an immersion into the landscape in search of the uncanny, the supernatural and the sacred. It will begin and end with me physically excavating at each site (as an archaeologist).
Taking an imagined medieval mindset as an inner world, I will project this onto the outer landscape through photographic practice, mapping, drawing and writing. I will also collect found objects of curiosity, from the excavations and during travel. A selection of these would be modified and placed inside a handmade reliquary. The central component of this practice will be photographic. In order evoke atmospheres of the medieval mindset, I will use a large format pinhole camera with 5”x4” black and white negatives.
The intention is to create a visual and written narrative of this journey, not to undertake the journey as a performance, but to use deep mapping principles to investigate a route, rather than a place.” – John Sunderland
Date: September 2020 – December 2022
Project Outputs: Photographs and handmade reliquary
Learn More at: www.johnsunderland.com