Edition of 200 artists’ books


A collaboration with Chris Maxted.

Edition of 200 screen printed artists’ books, commissioned as part of Six Sacred Sites.

From the introduction:

‘Census’ is the result of a series of workshops we carried out with South Wonston school children, encouraging them to consider the importance of the long barrows situated in their village.

We turned down several other better-preserved and more immediately impressive sites in favour of the small patch of overgrown land where the only indication of its significance is an information board. Surrounded by a modern housing estate, one would be forgiven for passing it by without a second thought. Indeed, many of the participants in this project were unaware of its existence despite having lived in the area for most of their lives.

Faced with a lack of tangible evidence from which to develop a worthwhile and relevant programme of activities for the children, we began to look at how the site is used in the everyday lives of the local residents. Many of the children were aware of the site only as a place where they could play or take a shortcut.

Children cannot take our word for what is there no more than they can accept the speculation of archaeologists. Without the opportunity for them to see with their own eyes the message would have lacked the firsthand experience crucial to understanding. In this way it differs from most sites that are traditionally considered sacred, for example churches, temples and tombs. Even pagan sites such as Stonehenge retain a strong physical presence in keeping with their continued status as a sacred place. The long barrows also lack a community who are bound to it by their personal or religious beliefs, however this does not mean that its original inhabitants were entirely without a sense of spirituality.

The eventual form of the project was decided upon following a series of enlightening discussions with Julia Sandison of the Society for Winchester Archaeology and Local History (WARG) in which she pointed out, in amongst other things, the wealth of common and non-indigenous wild flowers on the barrow. Due to the fact that the site is considered historically important, it has not fallen foul of the bulldozer and has therefore flourished as a natural habitat. That these plants grow here and possibly always have grown here seems to embody the idea of change, growth and decay that is inseparable from organic life, whilst at the same time providing a self-renewing memorial to a period of time that is otherwise irretrievable.

The week of the workshops found us exploring the site with the groups of children who were asked to place one-metre square quadrants at random intervals along the barrow. The plants and miscellanea contained within the quadrants were recorded and later used as the raw material to produce the main body of the book. In this way the participants could engage with the site on the basis of what is there in addition to what we are told used to be there. All those involved were able to derive a better understanding of the barrow, its sanctity as relevant to us today and the benefits of preserving these places for future generations. In an age where rabid property speculation is in danger of spiralling out of control, the preservation of land is perhaps becoming a modest form of worship in its own right.’

Images from Census, 2006

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