We are pleased to announce the launch of our artist brief for the Avebury Papers. Please find the full brief below, with details of how to apply. You may also access the same information via this Google doc.
This opportunity is for UK-based artists. We are holding an online information morning on Monday 30 October 2023 at 9:00am. The deadline for proposals is midnight GMT on Monday 20 November 2023. See below for further details.
We look forward to receiving your proposal!
Colleen and Fran
The Department of Archaeology at the University of York is a top rated archaeology department, located in the centre of historic York, UK. We are developing new methods of exploring and visualising ancient landscapes, excavating sites, analysing ancient artefacts, human and animal bones, pioneering the biomolecular study of all manner of organic and inorganic compounds, and conserving our shared heritage in order to tell diverse stories and build a sustainable future. https://www.york.ac.uk/archaeology/
The Research Project
The Avebury Papers is a four-year Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project to digitise, explore, and share the multimedia archive of Avebury’s Neolithic origins and its subsequent life-history – especially its excavation, reconstruction, and resurrection during the 1930s. Our research materials are largely held at the Alexander Keiller Museum, Avebury. By providing a fuller understanding of the history and modern significance of this part of the World Heritage Site, this research and the creation of the multi-media digital archive will enable more effective heritage management, education, and tourism programmes. We look forward to helping artists and creatives explore the many stories of the origins and re-use of Avebury across over 5,000 years.
Mark Gillings, Project Leader (Bournemouth University), Colleen Morgan, Co-I (University of York), Fran Allfrey (University of York), Ben Chan (Bournemouth University), Ros Cleal (National Trust), English Heritage, Historic England, Archaeology Data Service.
Alexander Keiller Museum Archive Creative Commission
The Avebury Papers project aims to commission two UK-based artists to work with the Avebury Papers team to explore the archive to generate wholly new works (in any medium) inspired by the Alexander Keiller Museum archive and the stories it enfolds.
The resultant work will accompany an exhibition at Avebury regarding the ‘narratives & biographies’ uncovered by this research. This work – and, if suitable according to the artists’ practice, work-in-progress or process or performance documentation – will be digitally archived as part of the Avebury Papers project, and openly accessible online, credited to the artist, under a Creative Commons Attribution licence, under the terms of the Archaeology Data Service hosting the archive. This will not preclude the artist from exhibiting the work in other venues or as they see fit.
What’s in the archive?
The Alexander Keiller Museum is in Avebury, near Marlborough in Wiltshire, in South West England. The Avebury Papers project is focussed on holdings associated with excavations in the Avebury landscape from the early 20th century. These include artefacts and paper documents from excavations run by Harold St George Gray in 1908-1911, and by Alexander Keiller in 1934-1939, as well as paper materials from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s related to the early running of the Alexander Keiller Museum.
Artefacts include: worked flint, animal and human remains, carbonised wood, and pottery from the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods, as well as materials from earlier and later periods.
The paper archive includes: loose photographic prints and photo albums, archaeological drawings, sketches, cartoons, diaries, letters, working notebooks, and other ephemera including unused postcards, business cards, and newspaper cuttings.
The archive is navigable using a catalogue-in-progress, and much of the paper archive has now been photographs with jpg and tif files available to access remotely.
Working with the archive
Dr Colleen Morgan and Dr Fran Allfrey are leading on commissioning artists as part of the research team. Dr Ros Cleal is the Curator of the Alexander Keiller Museum, and she will arrange physical access to the archive. Day to day, your contact will be with Colleen, Fran, and Ros.
There are two archive spaces at Avebury, as well as bookable education / study rooms. Avebury is a working National Trust site, with visitors from all over the world coming for heritage tours around the stones, spiritual visits, and events in the manor house.
At present, 30 volunteers are contributing to the project day to day, assisting with creating the catalogue, taking photographs, rehousing and organising the collection, transcribing handwritten and printed documents, and conducting research into the people involved in Avebury excavations. Volunteers are intrinsic to the project, and many of them have been volunteering weekly since January 2023, and so have built up good knowledge of the collection, and Avebury’s people and histories. While is no requirement for artists to engage with volunteers or other local communities at Avebury, the project team would welcome collaborative, co-creative, or socially-engaged practices. That said, we cannot guarantee the involvement of volunteers or local people: any such opportunities would be arranged on a case by case basis.
We approach Avebury and its archive as a network, where assemblages, clusters, and circles (of people, ideas, questions, things, and concepts) emerge, produce, and are entangled with each other. Avebury is also a complex representation: it is a 1930s simulacrum of an 18th-century sense of how a Neolithic monument should appear. Like the Avebury stone circles, we envisage circles as organising structures which contain and enable movement, invite various pathways and encapsulate worlds. We hope the archive will ultimately empower people by embodying a Spinozan sense of joy: we hope that people will love using the archive, and that people may become capable of new things, with others, sharing fun and learning.
The following themes have emerged from the current understanding of the project:
- The archives at Avebury are an assemblage of things, photographs, near-indecipherable text, and beautiful drawings. How do these things reflect and interact with the physicality of the landscape and stone?
- Many people have played a role in making Avebury what it is today: what social, cultural, and historical stories may be told through retracing their connections, personalities, methods, and lived experiences?
- The archive contains records of technologies and methodologies of archaeology which are familiar but are somewhat removed to modern ideas. What would Avebury look like now if it had not been excavated 100 years previously? What would we do with Avebury today if the 1930s restorations and reconstructions documented in the archive had not happened?
- How are relationships between the personal and archaeological, the creative and the scientific, represented in the archive?
- What kinds of stories are told only in the archival texts, or only in images? What stories emerge through combinations of text and image?
- The archive is texturally varied – leather-bound albums, hand pasted books, cuttings and scraps, pencil and ink, tracing paper, newsprint, headed paper and postcards, creases and folds, and archaeological artefacts of organic and man-made materials. How do we bring materiality to a digital archive? How might we facilitate imaginings of touch, smell, and close, slow looking on a screen?
Who Are We Looking For?
Please note that due to visa and administrative restrictions, this opportunity is only for UK-based artists.
We aim to commission artists working in any art form, including but not limited to visual arts, socially-engaged practices, video games, music and sound, film, dance, performance, creative writing, design, photography and other forms. Of particular interest are artists who want to explore archival materials and have an interest in archaeology and the role of the past in the present and future.
Please note: spaces around the scheduled monument landscape – including Avebury henge and stone circle and West Kennet Avenue – may be used in events, performances, or other forms of work, however, any activity will need to be agreed with the National Trust, with consideration for both protecting the landscape and preventing impact to local communities. Shortlisted candidates will be able to informally discuss ideas with the team to this effect.
Good communication skills are essential for this project, as so many institutions and individuals are involved. Willingness to travel to Avebury is desirable, and some funding is ringfenced for this travel. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds, particularly those under-represented in archaeology, and those who self-identify as being from a Black, Asian or Global Majority background.
The University of York strives to be diverse and inclusive – a place where we can ALL be ourselves. We particularly encourage applications from people who identify as with a Global Majority background, who are underrepresented at the University. We offer family friendly, flexible working arrangements.
Fees and expenses (per artist / collective)
Each artist can invoice for a total of up to £8,000 to include honorarium and supplementary costs of producing the creative work.
The £8,000 budget is broken down as follows:
Artist honorarium: £5,117 inclusive of VAT; We are matching rates with the Artists’ Union England rates of pay, at £255.85 per day, for 20 days of work for artists with 3+ years of experience
Materials and production budget: £2,000 inclusive of VAT
Travel budget: up to £883 inclusive of VAT, depending on location of work
Creative Process Timescale
September 2023: Artist Brief Circulated
30 October 2023, 09:00-10:00 GMT: Online information session for interested applicants: a brief introduction to the Avebury archive and an opportunity to ask questions to the team.
20 November 2023: Deadline for artist proposals. Submissions due by midnight GMT
8 December 2024: Shortlist of artists will be contacted for interviews
8 – 16 January 2024: Artists will be interviewed (online, via Zoom)
19 January 2024: Commissioned artists will be notified and briefing sessions will be arranged
January 2024 – October 2024: Commissioned artists work with the archive
October 2024 – April 2025: Commissioned artists share work with the Avebury Papers team, and discuss steps for archiving and exhibition
June 2025: Exhibition at Avebury
We invite written, video, or audio applications (or a combination of media). Please write to the team if you have any questions – we are committed to an inclusive expressions of interest process.
A completed application should include the following four elements. More information below explains the options for each element.
1. Your CV
2. Examples of previous projects
3. An expression of interest statement
4. Details of two referees
1. Your CV may take the form of 1 to 4 pages (Word, Google Doc, PDF, or a link to a CV/ about page on your website), and should detail relevant experience
2. Examples of previous projects. Examples may take one or any combination of the following forms. It is not necessary to send examples in every form, please choose what works best for your practice. If you are sending files as a web link, please ensure you provide us with a password if required:
- One video (max 3 minutes). This may be an email attachment, or a link to secure storage/ vimeo/ YouTube/ other website. The video may be accompanied by 300 words of explanatory written text or voiceover.
- One audio file (max 3 minutes). This may be an email attachment, or a link to secure storage/ soundcloud/ YouTube/ other website. The audio may be accompanied by 300 words of explanatory written or audio text.
- A maximum of 10 still images / photographs / single-page documents (these might show final works, work in progress, installation views, or pages of artist books/texts). These may be attached as PDF or JPG files, or sent as a link to secure storage. If these are presented as a video/ automated slide show, the run time should be a max 3 minutes. Images may be accompanied by 300 words in total of explanatory written or audio text.
3. A 600 word expression of interest (as written text, or as a 4 minute video or audio file) which details:
- Why you are interested in this project – with a focus on your interest or experience working with archaeological or historical archives
- A summary of how you will approach this work, including your proposed practice(s)
- Any information about your background relevant to the points outlined in the “who are we looking for” section above
4. The names, job titles, and contact email addresses for two referees – to be included in the main body of your application email. These can be other collaborators, commissioners, instructors, gallery staff, curators, or others who can comment on your background experience. Referees will only be contacted if you are shortlisted.
A selection panel will meet to review the applications and will contact all successful applicants.
We will endeavour to contact all applicants with the outcome. However, if you have not heard from us by 15 December 2023, please assume your application is unsuccessful.
For any further information or to submit your application please email: colleen [dot] morgan [at] york.ac.uk
All applications must be submitted by midnight GMT on 20 November 2023. Unfortunately we cannot accept applications after this deadline.
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