My name is Nicholas Hedges. I'm an artist from Oxford and this project - Artefact - comprises works and research created as a result of my participation in the East Oxford Archaeology Project. I'm interested in how contemporary art practice can be combined with archaeological processes to enable a deeper, more empathetic engagement with our past. Can creative strategies (as well as finished artworks) enhance knowledge derived from both historic sources and archaeological investigations? Can archaeological processes themselves - such as excavation, finds analysis, geophysics and surveying - become creative processes?
One of my first encounters with history, as far as I can recall, came when I was 7 years old. During a family holiday in Dorset, we visited Corfe Castle, a picture-postcard ruin which towers over the small village of Corfe below. I'd always remembered a particular postcard from that time, one which I've recently purchased. Most of its design comprised text commemorating the assassination of King Edward the Martyr (reigned 975-978). I can remember clearly, back then in 1978, looking at the dates at the top, at the year 978 and trying to conceive of a date which didn’t begin with a '1'. The very idea of a 1000 years ago fuelled my imagination; the very fact the place in which I was standing had witnessed such an event a 1000 years before I was even born set in motion a chain of thought which has remained to this day.
The past can often seem impossibly remote and one of the problems we face in identifying with those long since lost to the past, is how to bridge the temporal gap between us. The past has been 'written'. It's like the words in a book; years follow years like words in a sentence, like sentences that make up the page. For us in the present, those words are always in the course of being written. The paths our ancestors took through life are fixed, as if they’d always been so, as if they followed their lives like actors in a play, following directions, reading the lines written for them. But nothing ever happens in the past, what happened did so in what was then the present - a present which always lasts only for a second. But in that 'space' of every second life happens; we hear the birds, we see the sun, feel the wind and rain. In that space, all our hopes are held, all our fears and regrets. Into that space we carry our pasts in the form of memories. It’s the space of the everyday - one which we often take for granted. But it’s a space we share with everyone who’s ever gone before us..