April 2021 - "Art/Archaeology: Exploring Disciplinary Edges" (Dr Antonia Thomas)


Thursday 29th April, 1-2pm

Art and Archaeology have many points of intersection. Parallels can be drawn between archaeological practice and process-led art, and contemporary art is often drawn upon as an analogy for prehistoric visual culture in archaeological interpretations. Artists’ residencies are now a common feature on archaeological projects, and archaeological tropes frequently appear in the work of contemporary artists. At the same time, archaeologists are increasingly experimenting with creative practice in their own work. Both artists and archaeologists, therefore, are taking their research and practice to the edges, to explore what lies between, and beyond, their respective disciplines.

These Art/Archaeology interactions can be understood as part of wider trends towards interdisciplinary creative engagements, but also need to be understood in relation to the historical and cultural context of the two disciplines. The histories of both Art and Archaeology, with their roots in antiquarian cultures of collecting and display, are unavoidably bound up with colonial narratives and are freighted with political implications in the contemporary world. This recognition urges critical self-reflection of our role in the presentation, study and interpretation of both the past and the contemporary relationship between Art and Archaeology. At the same time, it means that Art/Archaeology work can challenge institutional and traditional narratives and tell stories that reach beyond official or formal discourse.

In this talk, I will sketch out the history of the relationship between Art and Archaeology, before presenting some recent case studies of artists who explore archaeological themes, and archaeologists whose work crosses over into visual arts practice. In exploring the edges of their disciplines, I will argue that these Art/Archaeology intersections open up possibilities for socially meaningful research and practice with wide ranging significance. In a world of increasing uncertainty and change, such interdisciplinary explorations are necessary and urgent.

 Dr Antonia Thomas, Archaeology Institute UHI

Antonia Thomas is an archaeologist and lecturer based at the Archaeology Institute, Orkney College, UHI, where she is Programme Leader for the MA Contemporary Art and Archaeology. Her research focusses on the relationship between Art and Archaeology in its broadest sense, from the interpretation of prehistoric visual culture, to the intersections between contemporary art practice and the archaeological imagination.



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