The impact of the eruption of Vesuvius has reached far beyond the historical moment of 79 CE and the geographical location of the Bay ofNaples: in the destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum, later periods and cultures have found an event in which multiple issues play out, from humankind’s relationship with the environment to the fragility of our relationship with the past. Consequently, as layers of pumice and pyroclastic deposits have been stripped away by excavators and archaeologists, different layers have accreted in their place, as writers and artists, tourists and thinkers have visited the site (whether in person or in their imagination), and added their own stories, recreations, and interpretations to the ruins. This talk will provide an overview of significant motifs in modern receptions of Pompeii – the motif of time travel; analogies between Pompeii and the psyche; the domestic nature of the site; apocalypse and ruin –before exploring two case studies in greater depth. First, the depiction of the destruction in a frieze created for the Neues Museum in Berlin in 1841 signals Pompeii’s centrality to northern European notions of cultural superiority, while the frieze’s later history –badly damaged in World War Two before undergoing a 21st-century partial restoration – mirrors the ancient story of loss and fragmentation in fascinating ways. Second, the use of Pompeii’s amphitheatre as setting for the1972 concert film Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii offers a contrasting insight into the ongoing resonance – both literally and figuratively – of this most evocative of ancient sites.
This talk will address an archaeological event that occurred just outside the city walls of ancient Pompeii in 1886-7. It centres on a discovery that was made in the territory of the ‘New Pompeii’ –that is, the Catholic Shrine that had been founded in 1872 just a few hundred metres east of the Roman amphitheatre, and the urban settlement that was fast growing around it. During the construction of some residential properties in the new central piazza, traces emerged of a Roman building, which was identified by excavators as a fullonica (laundry). The encounter with thisRoman building presented both logistical and conceptual challenges for the founders of the Shrine, who were compelled to integrate the fragmentary remains into the fabric – and the story – of their new Catholic city. Here I will first explore the process of finding, excavating, recording and publicising the 'fullonica' building, touching on this workshop’s themes of preservation, interpretation and manufacturing of replicas. I will then move on to explore more broadly how, in nineteenth-century Pompeii, both ancient history and geological ‘deep time’ were subsumed within a Catholic historical narrative, which drew on archaeological and geological scholarship, religious rituals, and commemorative festivals, monuments and architecture to create a uniquely (New)Pompeian sense of time and place.
Eva Mol is lecturer in Roman Archaeology in the department of Archaeologyat the University of York. Her interests in archaeology include archaeologicalhistory, Greco-Roman religion, digital archaeology, Greek and Roman arthistory, and museum and heritage studies related to the ancient Mediterranean.She is interested in how digital methods change our way of thinking of ancientGreek and Roman history and religion, having written her dissertation onCrusader Castles in the Near East and computational analysis. Her PhD researchinvestigated Egyptian material culture in Roman domestic contexts in Pompeii,and has since collaborated and worked on a number of Mediterraneanarchaeological fieldwork projects, in Pompeii, Rome, Cyprus, and Greece. Herrecent publication ‘Roman Cyborgs! On Significant Otherness, Material Absence,and Virtual Presence in the Archaeology of Roman Religion’ (2020) explores thedifferent ways archaeologists can contribute to and learn from the digitalworld through a post-human framework of creative computational technologies.
From tourist paraphernalia to artistic re-interpretations, the frescoes of the Villa of Mysteries in Pompeii have amassed an accretion of surfaces. Disruptive excavation procedures in the early 1900s physically altered the images and countless perspectives of the frieze have unfolded through gender analysis, psychoanalysis, writing and art, looking to reveal the mystery of the scenes. Notably, the male gaze formalised sexist and objectifying stories of the depicted women. The presentation follows various interpretations of the figures within the Villa of Mysteries from early photograph books published by archaeologist Amedeo Maiuri and painted renditions of the frieze by feminist and queer artists including Patricia Olson and David Cannon Dashiell to contemporary reflections of the site through current digital tools of AI. The presentation will reflect upon the influence of the site within cultural and social contexts throughout European history and the opportunity through digital lenses to transform our patriarchal histories to derive queer feminist perspectives.
This presentation considers the entanglements between the surface of theimage and the depth of the earth. In the face of ecological disaster andextractive ruination, a heightened attention to the underground sees a parallelin the centrality of the ‘deep’ in relation to AI systems and processes ofautomated perception such as deep learning, machine vision or data mining. Theparadigm of depth extends from geology to the domains of machinic cognition,yet this extension is not purely metaphorical: it is precisely through ‘deep’ways of sensing and knowing that humans can see, and excavate further, thedepths of the earth. Departing from an analysis of the colonial genealogies ofgeology and image-making, I argue that the contemporary entanglement of extractionand vision regimes cannot be understood without a critical examination of thehistorical co-production of the imperial scopic and geological imaginations. Tothis aim, this paper discusses the entwinement between two paradigmatic casescorresponding, respectively, to the beginning and the end of the SpanishEmpire: i) the chief moment of primitive accumulation around the imperialmass-scale extraction of silver in Potosí, present-day Bolivia, and ii) thetechnological and aesthetic apparatus supporting the contemporary civic effortsto render visible and excavate the mass graves of more than 20,000 victims ofFrancoist repression in the Spanish State. Through a series of methodologicalconsiderations and notes from ongoing fieldwork, the paper explores the ways inwhich an entangled understanding of vision and extraction contributes tounsettling the oppositions between surface and depth, representation andoperation, visibility and invisibility.
Between2015 and 2017 we, and interdisciplinary group of artist, architects andscientists climbed 17 Volcanoes on the island of Java. We reenacted someexpeditions conducted in the mid 19th century by the German-Dutchexplorer Franz Junghuhn (1809-1864). In2016 we reenacted the reenactment in the Harz area of central Germany, nearJunghuhn’s birthplace, and produced an artificial eruption on thevolcano-shaped slag heap of a former copper mine. In 2023 we presented part ofour work in an exhibition in Dresden, near the famous Grünes Gewölbe. Thisbaroque Wunderkammer, packed with gemstones and precious artifacts, isat the core of the European museal display system. An accumulation of preciousobjects, based on colonialism and extractivism it keeps haunting theimagination of the Western museum. How can we make productive this tension? Howcan we connect the current climate of opinions in the curatorial discourse withthe early phase of volcanology? Can we depict the work of exploration in the 19thcentury, the labor of mining, and our own mining of meaning onerepresentational level? Who can break the spell of the Grünes Gewölbe?