Reflective writing on The Rea Garden residency so far


Mapping the Site

A way to get to know the site. A feel for its dimensions. Noticing features (walls, gate). Starting to feel serious, working on the site. Taking the site seriously. Exploration and discovery. Mapping uncharted territory. Limitations imposed by equipment (short tape measure). Some parts are difficult to access due to plants. Questions of accuracy and detail. A rough plan but becoming more detailed. Measuring the minimum amount of different distances – pieced together dimensions, guessed right-angles, multiplication of error as measurements add up. Rough plan map has its own character. Subject to change, estimates, confusion.

Digging Test Excavations

Hope, thrill of searching. Disappointment when no record pieces found. But excitement at the same time. Self imposed methodology – keeping strict rules of labelling, measuring, choice of  excavation depth and location, but based on guesswork and mathematical superstition (second site must be 2m from first site. Again using rough right-angles). Intuition in testing surface. Rolling back turf is like opening a present. Again, a mixture of excitement and disappointment as spade hits rock or more burnt matter.

Hard physical work of digging and sieving every shovelful. Physical discomfort, fear of wasting my time, wasting my energy. Pushing my self to continue despite growing frustration. Overcompensating when finding anything vaguely interesting. Trying to keep up hope. Recognising beauty in semi-ordered pile of rubble next to sifted, sandy soil.

Digging to my self imposed rules, and the intense hope mixed with lack feels like a game I might have played as a child. I remember methodically grinding rocks in the back garden to make different coloured powders. A game taken very seriously. It really seemed to matter that I got enough of each colour. And frustration at a stone too hard to break. Slipping and crushing a finger between patio and rock. Playing very seriously with strict rules only known to me. Intense use of imagination to escape into a world of  work. I feel like I’m reconnecting with a younger me before the end of childhood and the onset of anxiety and the pressures of having to act like a grown up.

Finding bits of records

Initial excitement on (before) the first visit to the site. Finding bits of broken records and imagining their potential. Frustration at only finding small pieces and elation at finding bigger pieces in places I wasn’t expecting. Breaking the self-set rules of systematic recording, doing things in a certain order, sticking to set areas, with the elation of a new crop. This must be the temptation of a genuine archaeologist on making a discovery – rip it out of the ground, touch it and feel it, break off the dirt with two thumbs, look closely at the detail. Always imagining the potential in every piece. What sounds are there to be discovered? Why are these pieces here? Why are the fragments all broken up so much? Are there bigger pieces to be found deeper? Taking care with the pieces. Excited to try them out but cautious too, don’t want to do anything I can’t undo.


One Response to “Reflective writing on The Rea Garden residency so far”

  1. 1 big sister

    keep digging bro

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