This was my favourite feeling about the Paphos dig. We were uncovering bits of objects that spoke about a creative process, a moment in time, and the people within it. Furthermore, these objects had been silent, muffled by earth, for centuries at least. Hearing the archaeologists translate this material language – what each fragment was, what time it might have been constructed, and why – was fascinating.
It felt different to the way artists ‘read’ an object. Artists tend to project past experiences and personal associations onto a sculpture or painting, to extract more meaning than the object is capable of supplying. It becomes more about the viewer than the object. In Paphos, details were scrutinised by archaeologists, and sensible conclusions were reached tentatively based on what was there. What was known, either in the ground or in a museum. “Go from the known to the unknown.” The known made the unknown even more exciting.
With a new appreciation for material agency, I look at what I do. What will disappear in the next millennium, and what will endure? Digital animations seem most stable – lightweight, easily transportable and replicated at zero cost. Yet they could easily become incompatible as technology progresses. Especially once I’m long dead and there’s nobody left from the 21st Century to update them. My drawings will fade, mould and disintegrate like all paper eventually does.
With this in mind, I want to imagine a vibrant set of ancient personalities behind the Paphos sherds. The humans who made or used the vessels we found on site were as complex as we are. Bad singers, slow walkers, messy love lives, stinky feet and terrible jokes against a backdrop of Corinthian columns, frescos, Medieval walls, graffiti, and soaring minarets.
There are many more objects – from museums and the Paphos Theatre – yet to be animated. Until then, I must give enormous thanks to the project's fearless leader Craig Barker for such a wonderfully inspirational shot to the system. All the trench supervisors deserve congratulations – not only for their tireless work, but their patience with rookies like myself. And as always, I'm forever grateful for Diana Wood Conroy's guidance, humour and generosity in sharing her life’s experiences. It was the greatest pleasure to step into this story.
Artist and Excavator
Animation by Hannah Gee (2016). View on Vimeo.