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Monday, August 25, 2008

Field Installation 14

Field Installation 14 in Houten, Netherlands by JSA Rotterdam

The following text and images are courtesy JSA Rotterdam; photographs are by Arthur Blonk.

Field 14 is an archaeological site on the southern edge of a new housing estate in Houten. The plot is about 11.4 hectares (28 acres) in size and is a listed monument. The land is currently in use as an orchard, pasture, and arable field. No physical traces of the archaeological finds or occupation history are visible at the site. In 2000 archaeologists investigated a small portion of the site, because of plans to build a bicycle tunnel there. Drillings carried out in randomly selected locations elsewhere on the site revealed stone foundations, probably belonging to a Roman dwelling.

Other than that, Field 14 has essentially been left untouched. The subsurface must remain undisturbed, so that the archaeological remains are preserved intact for future investigation. In view of this situation, we developed a plan that involves the least possible disturbance to the site and is mainly representational in character. Just as the new housing estate across the road draws attention to itself with a billboard and a message, the archaeological site now advertises its identity by means of a pixel display: "AT WORK ON HISTORY HERE, AS TIME FLIES BY, IRREVERSIBLY."

Because the pixels are three-dimensional, two distinct images can be displayed simultaneously to viewers in different directions. Like a postcard with a picture that changes when you move it back and forth, the picture on the display changes as you drive past it. The text becomes an image, and the vague form of an old Roman dwelling becomes visible, like a transparent watermark on the landscape.

The installation is not only a message, but also an object. In its strategic location in the field, it looks somewhat misplaced among the grazing sheep. People who take the time to come closer to the construction, however, will find that it is possible to approach it and climb on to it. A staircase built into it leads visitors past reproductions of earlier excavations to a platform with a view of the field and its surroundings.

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