The Cube: A Cinema Archaeology

The Cube

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What are the methodological and conceptual questions generated through a collision of media archaeology with disciplinary archaeologies? Emerging out of the German intellectual milieu, media archaeology has positioned itself contra archaeology as such due, in part, to the specific disciplinary and methodological contours of archaeology as practised in Germany. While German archaeologies are seen to focus on precise excavation and finds studies (cf. Bintliff 2011), British, Scandinavian, North American and Oceanic archaeological scholarship has been characterized by critical-theoretical innovation, dating at least as far back as Lewis Binford’s processual ‘New Archaeology’ (1968) and David Clarke’s application of systems theory to archaeology (1968). However, even earlier, antiquarian William Stukeley (1740) pioneered early archaeological techniques of observation and visualisation. O.G.S. Crawford realised the potential of aerial photography to illuminate archaeological approaches to understanding landscape use (1928). And landscape historian W.G Hoskins (1955) introduced generations of archaeologists to walking and dwelling in the landscape as a powerful interpretative tool. In short, global archaeology has never really been about digging in the dirt.

As the discipline of archaeology matures, however, even its highly diverse methods tend towards normativity. Archaeologists with interests in media technologies, artefacts, networks and landscapes are seeking to apply rigorous methods from conventional archaeological practice in order to legitimize archaeological interests in the media and to distinguish archaeological approaches from those of the ‘media archaeologists’ (see Morgan and Perry, this volume). This is important work that makes a significant contribution to the field. However, might there also be room for archaeologists to bring the more playful methods used in prehistoric archaeology (McFayden 2012) into the media archaeology arena? Might the empirical evidence base of media archaeology insist on newer methods to trouble normative archaeologies? In this chapter, I discuss a project undertaken at Cube Microplex, a volunteer-run arts and cinema space in Bristol, UK. In advance of major redevelopment work, I was commissioned to undertake an archaeology of the cinema in collaboration with the community of Cube volunteers. The aim was two-fold: to record a multi-scalar assemblage of the cinema’s interior spaces and artefacts and to generate materials that could be re-assembled in future as part of an ongoing artwork to be enfolded in the cinema as part of its media heritage. In doing this collaborative project, we hope both to contribute methodologically to the scholarly field of media archaeology and to demonstrate its potential impact beyond the academy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNew Media Archaeologies
EditorsBen Roberts, Mark Goodall
PublisherUniversity of Amsterdam Press
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)978 90 4853 209 4
ISBN (Print)9789462982161
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jan 2019

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