Category Archives: Aesthetics and Representation

Scenes from “Material Culture–The Film” part 3

The closing scene of Bunel’s Cet obscur objet du désir:

Syracuse Cardiff Giant, Reborn

A former archaeological sensation, now an art project.  Or was it an art project in its initial iteration too?

“Theres a sucker born every minute”

via Syracuse Cardiff Giant.

Archaeology from Reel to Real

A special report from the NSF examines the relationship between practicing archaeologists and their on-screen avatars in films such as the Indiana Jones cycle.  In stressing similarities, the report notes that:

NSF-supported archaeologists do discover “lost cities”; they do try to figure out what happened to “vanished civilizations”; they do seek rare and precious artifacts that tell important stories about the past, even if those artifacts are minute snails and the scrapings of ancient teeth and not golden idols.

via nsf.gov – Archaeology from Reel to Real – A Special Report.

My argument is not with the representation of archaeological research today, but rather with the reading of the films.  When in any of the major cinematic depictions of archaeologists do our heroes try to “figure out what happened” or “tell important stories about the past”.  Instead, archaeology is represented as purely a process of discovery, interpretation only at the trowel’s edge, so to speak. Or are there films that I’m missing?

New Wall Paintings from Catal Hoyuk

CATALHOYUK, TURKEY — A pair of space-age shelters rising from the beet and barley fields of the flat Konya Plain are the first clue to the Catalhoyuk Research Project, where archaeologists are excavating a 9,000-year-old Neolithic village.

The experts, armed with scalpels, gingerly scraped away micro-layers of white plaster from a wall deep in the dig last month to reveal what the project director, the British archaeologist Ian Hodder, called a “very exciting” and “particularly intriguing” painting with deep reds and reddish oranges thought to be made with red ochre and cinnabar.

via Into the Stone Age With a Scalpel – A Dig With Clues on Early Urban Life – NYTimes.com.

Vibrant Matter-An interview with Jane Bennett

Here is an interesting interview with Jane Bennett on issues of materiality and the emerging philosophy of the object world.  We read Bennett’s book Vibrant Matter in my “Political Lives of Things” course at Cornell last year.  But the text … Read more »