Andrew Meirion Jones has recently taken up a Professorship at Stockholm University, Sweden. Previously, from 2001-2021, he taught at the University of Southampton, UK. He has mainly worked on the visual imagery of later prehistoric Europe, and has collaborated extensively with visual artists. His most recent project involves a collaboration with artists, and members of the Blackfoot confederacy, Canada, to digitally document Blackfoot artefacts held in UK museum collections. In addition to this he is also working on a collaborative field project in the Coa valley, Portugal documenting the later prehistoric rock art of this important Palaeolithic landscape. His most recent books include The Archaeology of Art. Materials, Practices, Affects (2018), Making a Mark: image and process in Neolithic Britain and Ireland (2019), Images in the Making: art, process, archaeology (2020) and Diffracting Digital Images: archaeology, art practice, cultural heritage (2022).
Four dimensional images and multidimensional images in archaeology and art history
Once upon a time images were considered by archaeologists and heritage specialists as stable entities. Computational and digital imaging, alongside new analyses of archaeological images, have now forced us to question the perceived stability of images (Jones 2022). By considering new analyses of images from prehistory, including the British Neolithic and the Scandinavian Late Iron Age, I will suggest that we are better considering images as processes rather than events. I will argue that the distinction between considering images as processes rather than events hinges on the indexicality of the image. To what extent does the image relate to a particular event or moment in time (as in photography) and to what extent does the image relate to ongoing processes (as we find in computational imaging)? I will argue that these questions – highlighted by recent engagements with digital imaging techniques – also inform us about the fundamentally unstable character of images.
If we are able to consider individual images as processes, how does this alter our understanding of long-term change? How are we to understand images as historical processes? To consider this further, I will discuss three artists and scholars who occupy a leftfield position in art history and art practice. I will discuss the work of art historian/archaeologist George Kubler, in particular The Shape of Time (Kubler 1962). I will also discuss two incomplete works including the Mnemosyne Atlas of art historian Aby Warburg (Johnson 2012), and the project 10, 000 years of Nordic folk art, the unfinished, and only partially published, collaboration between Danish artist Asger Jorn and Danish archaeologist PV Glob (Pedersen 2016). Each of these projects is distinguished by their attempts to consider images in different ways as vital or living agents that unfold over time in long historical sequences.
I will argue that views of images as four-dimensional or multi-dimensional processes offer a new possibility to revitalize these disparate projects in art, art history and archaeology, potentially offering the chance for a new understanding of images and image making in archaeology and art history.
Johnson, C., D. 2012. Memory, Metaphor, and Aby Warburg’s Atlas of Images. New York: Cornell University Press.
Jones, A.M. 2022 Four-dimensional and multi-dimensional images: diffracting archaeological and computational images, in I. Dawson, A.M. Jones, L. Minkin and P. Reilly (eds.) Diffracting Digital Images. Archaeology, Art Practice, Cultural Heritage. London: Routledge.
Kubler, G. 1962 The Shape of Time. Remarks on the history of things. New Haven: Yale University Press.