Bog Bodies

Posted by on Dec 12, 2008 in Blog | No Comments

photo courtesy Lennart Larsen/Nat.Museum of Denmark

November 22 was the second in our symposium series, featuring one of my personal favorite visitors to the Art Monastery, Christine Finn. (The first in the series was by Gyrus.) She has such a breadth of experience and fascinating depth of knowledge on a variety of topics that really she has every right to be snobby out of control. Instead, she is accessible and easy to be around, to work with, and to listen to. What a wonder! We are honored to host her and count her amongst our collaborators.

Her Bio:
Christine Finn was a reporter at 16, a woman’s editor at 17, and left her TV newsroom after a Reuter Journalism Fellowship at Oxford University, to return for a degree in Archaeology and Anthropology, and a doctorate on poetry and archaeology. She now works as a freelance journalist, presenting on BBC Radio 3, and contributing to, most recently, the Guardian, the Sunday Times, New Scientist, British Archaeology, the V and A magazine, Ready Made, and Slow Food.

Her books include Past Poetic and Artifacts: an Archaeologist’s Year in Silicon Valley, of which she is writing a sequel. She is biographer of Jacquetta Hawkes, and is possibly the only Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries with a thing for vintage computers.

Left: Detail from the excavated room from the domestic art project, Leave-Home-Stay, 2007, Right: Christine Finn

She landed in Ciampino coming from Rome (though before that she was in California and Hawaii just days before that, writing a piece for the London Sunday Times about Obama’s mother). Christine is an archaeologist, journalist, and artist. She excels in everything she does. Her presentation was centered on the liminal state, using as an entry point these 2000-year-old bodies preserved by the bogs of Ireland. She proposed that, suspended in a state between ancient dead and current living, the bodies take on a different sort of significance.

photo courtesy Lennart Larsen/Nat.Museum of Denmark

What is going on here? Bog bodies are preserved human bodies found in sphagnum bogs in Northern Europe, Great Britain, and Ireland. Some date back to prehistoric ages, but most examples are from medieval times. The amazing thing that differentiates bog bodies from other ancient human remains is that the specific condition of the bogs preserve the skin and hair of the bodies (which also colors the skin a deep copper).

photo courtesy Lennart Larsen/Nat.Museum of Denmark

After her presentation, the audience peppered Christine with questions — and only stopped because dinner was ready and Italians respect food above all else. After dinner, we gathered around the fireplace and delved back into the topics at hand. I stepped out to help clean up the kitchen and when I came back the group had woven itself into an intense discussion: 3 of the 19 people there had lost both parents within a year of each other and shared their experiences around that, namely of sacred quality taken on by the objects their parents left behind. This was brought on by Christine’s presentation of her most recent monumental work: the archaeological “excavation” of her parents’ house after their deaths.

Visitors were invited to wander through the house and gardens, welcome to open any cabinet or even come into the room Christine was living in for the duration of the installation.

Christine removed layers of the house, approaching her investigation from her archaeologist perspective.

Christine says about this work, “The project’s reveling in changes over time, the anomalies and anachronisms, sparked visitors’ memories in a mixture of curiosity and nostalgia. My own emotional journey was made explicit through this excavation of home and investigation of art: I got to know my parents better, and ‘leaving’ is made more possible.”

Above photos courtesy of Christine Finn


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