The Golubitskoe Art Foundation is pleased to present Mikhail Maksimov's project Abortive Archaeology vs Lossless Archaeology that reflects on the possibility of careful and respectful treatment of archaeological sites and the concept of sustainable archaeology.
In the 21st century, archaeology has, to an extent, faced an identity crisis: once a romantic profession of pioneers, it has become one of the tools for the industrial development of the planet. An archaeologist's shovel helps to study the history of humankind, but the fully surveyed site ceases to exist; its resources are finite. The excavation of a burial mound or a settlement means its destruction and inaccessibility for future generations – it only continues to exist in the form of plans, photographs, scientific articles and 3D models. The archaeological community holds regular discussions on the necessity of surveying every detail of the site, but they have failed to reach a consensus so far.
An archaeological site is a finite resource, an underground deposit of invaluable information that is worth being preserved provided it is not threatened with imminent destruction. Some believe that there will be no need to excavate sites in the future as scientists will be in possession of more advanced methods for obtaining information. Today, industrial activities and incorrect archaeological excavations as well as metal detectorists catering for antiquities collectors threaten the heritage of the past (Fagan, DeCorse, 2007: 46-47). Some believe still that we need to get there ahead of them. At the same time, in the last 50 years we have seen a rapid development of non-destructive, or non-invasive, archaeological survey techniques (X-ray fluorescent analysis, radiography, the use of GIS and remote sensors, geophysical methods), which instils a certain sense of optimism.
Over the course of his residency at the Golubitskoe Art Foundation, artist Mikhail Maksimov visited archaeological museums and excavation sites in Taman and decided to raise awareness about the issue of 'the beneficial possibility of not discovering certain archaeological sites'.
In his own words:
'Oftentimes, scientists regard the discovery of an ancient object as a success, and from this moment on starts the selfless process of "rescuing" the object, which otherwise would have still been inside the earth, safely tucked in the soil. I would like to raise the issue of the relevance of the extraction of architectural monuments, given the rapid development of analysis technologies, digital scanning, DNA tests, etc. [...]
To this end, I have made a three-part video, in which I compared archaeological work with the work of an obstetrician removing a fetus ahead of time and using medical instruments designed to destroy it. In this work, I conducted 3D scanning of the finds from the main archaeological museums of Taman and also used footage of the most short-lived archaeological finds – children's sandcastles on the beaches of the Sea of Azov.'