The Junk Drawer Project: Field Photography and the Construction of Assemblage
Journal: Journal of Contemporary Archaeology
Subject Areas: Archaeology
In “The Junk Drawer Project”, I rely on assemblage photographs I created at a Caribbean archaeological site and in contemporary American homes, to interrogate how aesthetic mediation enters archaeological interpretations through such methodological practices as field photography, and how the visual media produced for field analyses themselves become sites upon which the archaeological imagination is constituted. By presenting the outcome of the Junk Drawer Project as a photo essay, I aim to offer a critical engagement with artifact photography based in the deliberate and attentive application to contemporary contexts of methodological practices developed for the study of the eighteenth and nineteenth century, in order to reveal the tensions between the sensorial properties of artifacts, the specific bearings of my technical training as an archaeologist, and the field of possible interpretations afforded by evidentiary regimes within which my work typically unfolds. Through the application of this methodology to my own scholarship and in-field practice, I also explore how archaeology’s unique contribution to our understanding of human experience in the context of transdisciplinary scholarship might contribute to a critical engagement with the “creative turn” in the humanities and social sciences. I argue that the practice of assemblage photography throws into relief how the tensions between archaeological scholarship, fieldwork and representation shape not only the constitution of “assemblages” into meaningfully discrete bundles of evidence, but also the very recording process through which traces of the past are made visible, and through which archaeologists are made visible to each-other and themselves as practitioners.
Author: Genevieve Godbout
Benjamin, W. 2013 . Illuminations. Translated by H. Zohn. New York: Schocken Books.
Buchli, V. and G. Lucas. 2001. Archaeologies of the Contemporary Past. London and New York: Routledge.
DeSilvey, C. 2006. “Observed Decay: Telling Stories with Mutable Things.” Journal of Material Culture 11 (3): 318–338. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359183506068808
Edgeworth, M. 2011. “Excavation as a Ground for Archaeological Knowledge.” Archaeological Dialogues 18 (1): 44–46. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1380203811000109
____. 2013. “The Clearing: Archaeology’s Way of Opening the World.” In Reclaiming Archaeology: Beyond the Tropes of Modernity, edited by A. González-Ruibal, 33–43. London and New York: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203068632.ch2
Gell, A. 1992. “The Technology of Enchantment and the Enchantment of Technology.” In Anthropology, Art and Aesthetics, edited by J. Coote and A. Shelton, 40–63. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
____. 1998. Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Gosden, C. 2001. “Making Sense: Archaeology and Aesthetics.” World Archaeology 33 (2): 163–167. https://doi.org/10.1080/00438240120079226
Guha, S. 2013. “Photographs and Archaeological Knowledge.” Ancient Asia 4 (4): 1–14.
Harrison, R. 2011. “Surface Assemblages: Towards an Archaeology In and Of the Present.” Archaeological Dialogues 18 (2): 141–161. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1380203811000195
Hester, T. R., H. J. Shafer and K. L. Feder. 2008. Field Methods in Archaeology (7th edition). London and New York: Routledge.
Heidegger, M. 1971. Poetry, Language, Thought. Translated by A. Hofstadter. New York: Harper & Row.
Ingold, T. 2007. “Materials against Materiality.” Archaeological Dialogues 14 (1): 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1380203807002127
Kautz, S. 2016. “Broken Tulips at the Pier: The Archaeology of Whitehall Slip.” MCNY Blog: New York Stories. Available online: https://blog.mcny.org/2016/04/30/broken-tulips-at-the-pier-the-archaeology-of-whitehall-slip/
Lucas, G. 2002. Critical Approaches to Fieldwork: Contemporary and Historical Archaeological Practice. London and New York: Routledge.
Marsh, J. 2009. “Fieldwork. A Conversation with Mark Dion.” American Art 23 (2): 32-53. https://doi.org/10.1086/605713
Morgan, C. L. 2016. “Analog to Digital: Transitions in Theory and Practice in Archaeological Photography at Çatalhöyük.” Internet Archaeology 42. Available online: https://doi.org/10.11141/ia.42.7
Pearson, M. and M. Shanks. 2001. Theater/Archaeology. London and New York: Routledge.
Rivera, L. 2015. “Photographing Fragments of New York City’s Past.” MCNY Blog: New York Stories. Available online: https://blog.mcny.org/2015/02/17/photographing-fragments-of-new-york-citys-past/
____. and C. Svabo. 2013. “Archaeology and Photography.” In Reclaiming Archaeology: Beyond the Tropes of Modernity, edited by A. González-Ruibal, 89–102. London and New York: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203068632.ch7
Simmons, H. C. 1969. Archaeological Photography. New York: New York University Press.
Stewart, R. M. 2002. Archaeology: Basic Field Methods. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt.
Wickstead, H. 2013. “Between the Lines: Drawing Archaeology.” In The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of the Contemporary World, edited by P. Graves-Brown, R. Harrison and A. Piccini, 549–564. Oxford: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199602001.013.012
Witmore, C. 2014. “Archaeology and the New Materialisms.” Journal of Contemporary Archaeology 1 (2): 1–22. https://doi.org/10.1558/jca.v1i2.16661