Art | Ecology | Technology

And how we use them to shape landscapes.



Hanford Site, Washington

“In wastelands we see the belligerent disruption of the natural course of events either through a disaster or the gradual wasting that effaces the luster of progress.  The temporal dimensions are often geologic in their scale.  The growth of a landfill forms layers and epochs, and its future can seem limitless.  When the deposition on landfills stops, and they are capped for indeterminate afterlives, the wasteland becomes a sublimated and buried history.

Fenced and removed from the center of daily life, many waste sites, in a sense, exist out of time.”

– Matthew Potteiger and Jamie Purinton, Landscape Narratives : Design Practices for Telling Stories. p. 216


The Role of the Object within Preservation

On September 22 – 23, 2016 the Saxo Institute at Copenhagen University invited scholars from fields of heritage, archaeology, social sciences, fine arts and anthropology for a conference entitled, ‘On the Trace.’  Lectures and discussions focused on significant objects and places, and our relationship to the continued and/or diminishing traces they leave behind.  Invited speakers addressed this topic through a variety of examples such as: the heritagization of a presumably failed fission nuclear research site; the objects collected from survivors of a Nazi internment camp; and the ritual of children in several Scandinavian countries whereby they forfeit their pacifiers to specific communal trees as a childhood rite of passage.   

On September 26, 2016, Stockholm University hosted a day of lectures on the topic, ‘Reframing Heritage as Movement.’  Representative scholars and professionals from the field of historic preservation and heritage were present to speak about how objects and places have shifted meaning and significance over time, and how the field of heritage can diversify and respond to shifting contexts.  

While clearly diverse, the lectures at each of these conferences brought up discussions that revolved around several key questions:  
  • Is heritage overly obsessed with the object/tangible and should we (and can we) shift focus away from the object?
  • How can people better illustrate alternative histories? What happens with conflicting histories as we move forward?
  • How can we use traces to address the past such that it helps to create stronger, more resilient, more diverse and inclusive futures?

These questions are overwhelmingly complex.  Traces/histories are experienced in many different ways and the speakers who presented at these conferences have pulled on a number of fascinating sources to frame their discussions.  As I begin to pour through these sources and mull over my own understanding of the issues presented, these are initial reflections on the topics presented at these conferences.  

Continue reading “The Role of the Object within Preservation”

Although all of the speakers at the ‘On the Trace’ conference organized by the The Saxo Institute at the University of Copenhagen last week offered abundant material for consideration, two organizations were discussed that are doing very exciting things in the way of heritage, preservation, and future potentials.

Heritage Futures presented by Rodney Harrison

“Exploring alternative ways of shaping future legacies and assembling common worlds across different fields of conservation practice”


Heritage Futures makes critical connections with projects from a range of disciplines and offers analyses of diverse projects as a means of showing that the field of heritage should not be approached singularly and is omnipresent.  Some of the information you can find on its site include: a link to SKB – Swedish nuclear fuel repository; a discussion of heritage efforts underway such as that around the Orford Ness Lighthouse in Britain; and a critique of the perception of heritage within the recent blockbuster, Interstellar.

Incompiuto Siciliano Archaeological Park presented by Pablo Arboledo

“It’s real because it’s there.”


Incompiuto Siciliano Archaeological Park is the brainchild of the artist collective Alterazioni Video who viewed incomplete public works projects as potential points of pride for their surrounding communities.  As Arboledo points out, these structures are Modern yet function-less in their incompletion and therefore reside in limbo of form defined by a function that never came to be.  Alterazioni Video implores communities to re-invent these spaces, starting with engagement and re-envisioning.

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