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Art Landscape Transformations

9 July 2008

Logo for the EU Culture Programme

Cardiff archaeologists Professor Douglass Bailey and Dr Steve Mills have won £108,000 worth of funding from the European Commission to participate in a pan-European project on landscapes, art and heritage.

 

Experimental archaeology pottery production in the Teleorman Valley

Experimental archaeology pottery production in the Teleorman Valley, Romania. 

'This sort of funding gives us the time and resources to do extraordinarily innovative work that cuts across the traditional boundaries of archaeology and art'. Bailey commented. 'It is the kind of project that will change the way that people think about the past and about the ways that we study the past.'

Bailey and Mills will lead a team of archaeologists, anthropologists, artists, performers, historians and ethnographers in a three year study of a Romanian village and the diverse relationships which its population has had with its landscape from prehistoric to present times.

Mills notes, 'In previous work in the region, we have recovered the remains of 8000 year old village life. The new grant allows us to locate those ancient patterns of activity into the very long-term perspective that only modern, critically informed archaeology can provide. The project will have a huge impact in the region and in the more general practice of archaeology across and beyond Europe.'

Neolithic settlement mound at Magura (image digitally transformed).

Neolithic settlement mound at Magura (image digitally transformed).

Both Bailey, an authority on the archaeology of art and European prehistory, and Mills, an expert on auditory archaeology, have deep experience in fieldwork in southeastern Europe, especially though their excavations of early Neolithic (6000 BC) villages in Romania and Bulgaria.

The new work is one of nine components in the Art Landscapes Transformations project (based at the Instituto Politécnico de Tomar in Portugal) and which has been made possible by an EU grant of 1.48 million Euro. Financed by the European Union's Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency within its Culture Programme (2007-13), the Art Landscapes Transformations project combines work from across academic disciplines and involves archaeologists, historians, architects, performance artists, photographers, and many others. In addition to the Cardiff component, teams from Spain, Portugal, Latvia, Ireland, France and Italy are carrying out similar local projects in other parts of Europe. All of the participants are making work (scientific and artistic) that connects past and present experiences of landscape in natural and human senses.

The Teleorman River Valley (image digitally transformed).

The Teleorman River Valley (image digitally transformed).

Across the different projects, particular emphasis will be placed on making interventions into landscapes especially in rural areas within economically disadvantaged regions. Bailey and Mills' work in the Teleorman Valley in southcentral Romania (particularly in and around the village of Măgura) will expand their Southern Romania Archaeological Project which has been working there since 1998. The aim of the new work is to investigate different interventions into the local landscape: prehistoric (8000 year old pit-dwellings ); scientific (recent archaeological and geomorphological trenching); and artistic (Land Art, film, audio, photography and graphic illustration to be implemented with the new grant). The intention is to gain new insight into the relationships that different groups of people (past/present; local/foreign; academic/lay) have with their physical environment, particularly in a region which, though rich with historic and prehistoric sites and local cultural heritage, is poor in modern industry or other commercial terms. Work will take place in collaboration with the Teleorman County Regional Historical Museum in Alexandria (Romania) and with the people of the village of Măgura and will last until 2011.

As part of this project, a wide range of events will take place in and around the village of Măgura and at the Regional Historical Museum involving local villagers and national and international invited participants.  Activities include:

  • workshops on landscape art, understanding rivers, experimental archaeology (pottery making and firing, fire-pits and feasting) and performance art;
  • ethnographic film-making;
  • creating a local history archive;
  • a conference on village life;
  • a conference on local and regional prehistoric landscape change;
  • art-landscape transformations and local prehistoric archaeology exhibitions.