Excavated plastics and slate heritage: new members of the RoN team

We are happy to have two new members on board; Icelandic artist, Þorgerður Ólafsdóttir, and Alexa Spiwak, PhD fellow in archaeology at the University of Oslo. Alexa and Þorgerður will be working on exciting projects, exploring the nature-cultures of slate heritage, Surtsey island and earth-found plastics.

Slate heritage

Alexa’s PhD project, tentatively titled Splitting Stones: Exploring the Slate Heritage Landscapes of the Anthropocene, explores the remains and landscapes of slate quarrying in Norway, Wales and Newfoundland. The project traverses the blurred boundary between “natural” and “cultural” heritage in an effort to better understand the complex entanglements of human and non-human actors within industrial landscapes, and how they relate to the (re)creation and care of heritage. How do these post-industrial landscapes fit within the traditional boundaries of heritage, and how does this affect the ways in which we interact with and commemorate them? Are they natural, cultural or something in between? How do we assign heritage value to the things that industry leaves behind, and how should we care for them? Splitting Stones endeavours to address these questions, exploring the complex entanglements of human and non-human actors within post-industrial landscapes by delving into the murky waters where the past and present superimpose upon each other and the boundaries between nature and culture begin to break down.

The ruined mill buildings of Cwm Orthin slate quarry, Northwest Wales. Photo: Alexa Spiwak

Surtsey island and earth-found plastics

Þorgerður Ólafsdóttir is an Icelandic artist based in Reykjavík. Her practice considers ideas and definitions of time, place and the systems we use to understand the natural world as it meets, overlaps and is interpreted within human environments. In her current projects she explores manifestations of the Anthropocene through objects like drift matter and excavated plastic artifacts among other things. Her project Island Fiction is a visual research and exploration on Surtsey since humans made their first steps on the island. In her ongoing archival project Future Fragments, she documents plastic artifacts preserved in the National Museum of Iceland found in topsoil across the country.

Red LEGO excavated in Iceland: part of the artist’s archive. Photo: Þorgerður Ólafsdóttir

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