Inverse Archaeology by Adinda van ’t Klooster

Inverse Archaeology, 2005

When the archaeology museum in Lincoln (UK) was designed in 2004,  the incorporation of artwork into the fabric of the highly stylised building was considered from the outset.

The first of a series artworks to be successfully installed was the 16-channel sound installation by Adinda van ‘t Klooster.  As one enters the orientation hall,  a blend of voices and abstract soundscapes emanates from speakers enclosed within the facing wall.  Walking with ones ear close to the wall,  individual stories and sounds can be deciphered.   The artwork reflects the nature of archaeology with its many layers of time and strata that gradually become uncovered and reformed.

After an initial research period, van ‘t Klooster chose 15 stories and texts related to the history of Lincolnshire and invited local people to come and read them out. Forming a time-line along the length of the wall,  the chosen stories include legends,  myths, monks’ recipes and scientific documents related to the area.  There are also poems and texts by people who were born in Lincoln,  like Isaac Newton and Alfred Lord Tennyson of whom an original wax recording is included.

Consequently,  the recorded texts and stories were gradually deconstructed by the artist using a specially designed computer program which allowed her to use archaeological dating graphs to affect the sound files.  Pairing each story with a dating graph of an object the same age as the story,  and affecting the file over and over again,  the stories disintegrate into pure rhythm and white noise over the cause of a day.  As the recordings vary in length and texture,  they disintegrate in varying time loops.  Once fully disintegrated,  the sound slowly repairs itself,  eventually morphing back into the initial clean recording.  At no point during the day is the installation the same and over 100 hours of sound footage were created for this installation.  This installation is best experienced by returning to it at different times throughout the day.  Only in the morning all the stories are all audible at the same time.

A short recording of the sound in the space, with the 16 channels intermingled:

If your browser does not support native audio, you can download this MP3 to listen on your device.


image of interface used

Screen grab of the interface used.