DIG & SOW (2011)



Created as part of On Landguard Point, Dig and Sow invited members of the public to become participants in a mass region-wide archeological excavation, in search for traces and even fragments of home.

During the development of the On Landguard Point project Robert Pacitti began an exchange with the high profile British archaeologist Carenza Lewis, based at Cambridge University and famous for her appearances on the Channel 4 television series Time Team. The exchange effectively established the relevance of archaeology to this project about home, especially when central to that concept were notions of shared and shifting heritage, connected through time via people and landscape. Robert was influenced hugely by Carenza describing this as “creating an umbilical link between the homes and the residents of the present, and those of the past”. On Landguard Point thereby linked archaeological excavation with performance through Dig & Sow – a series of specially commissioned archaeological excavations involving many thousands of people across the East of England as both participants and audience. Existing as a year long project in its own right within On Landguard Point, Dig & Sow was effectively ‘participatory community art’, although that language wasn't wrapped around the project in any public way.

Writing about her role in the journal Medieval Settlement Research Lewis reflects on the interactions between archaeologists, performance artists, and public participants, and highlights some of the positive effects working in the community had on all involved:

Watching [the final film of On Landguard Point] in Cambridge, I found it beautiful, moving and thought-provoking, magnificently complimented by Nyman’s musical score. As the combined result of so many projects, it was inevitable that little of the film was given over to the archaeology, this was never going to be an ‘art house’ take on Time Team. But where the archaeology did feature, it had considerable impact, and it provided the last, lingering images of the entire film: after a charm in the shape of a dog (representing Black Shuck, one of the best‑known East Anglian legends), was deposited in the bottom of a completed test pit, the camera lingered on in close‑up as shovelful after shovelful of soil was thrown in on top, in a visually beautiful, deeply‑textured, compelling, contemplative sequence which lasted several minutes. It was as unlike Time Team as anything could possibly be.
[…] Dig & Sow introduced many people to archaeology, of course, and gave them an unforgettable experience they would not have had otherwise, while providing valuable new information about the past which advances wider research into historic settlements. It added an extra dimension to the On Landguard Point film which significantly enriched it. But more broadly, by involving archaeology in a cultural project focussed on performance art, our involvement with On Landguard Point also underlined the diversity and inter‑connectedness of ‘culture’ in all its different manifestations. It showed how archaeology can contribute to a broader range of community cultural and arts programmes than it usually does, and reinforced the links between archaeology, heritage, museums, culture and the arts. The demonstration that the inclusion of archaeology enhanced and broadened the appeal of the primarily arts‑based On Landguard Point project should be a useful lesson for the future — many people took part who would not have been interested were it not for the hands‑on archaeology, and it reached parts of the community that On Landguard Point would not have done otherwise. […]
On Landguard Point is a project from which everyone involved will doubtless gain something different. We are all individuals, and this was a project that made everyone think. Perhaps the final words about its capacity to speak to those involved should be given to one of the East Anglian residents who took part in the digging:
‘I was given the silver rifle charm yesterday to bury in a test pit my team dug in my hack garden. As I lay the rifle in the bottom of my pit I had a sudden rush of emotion: my son is in Afghanistan at the moment serving in our armed forces. I snatched the rifle from the pit and put it back in the envelope I had freed it from two minutes earlier. My promise to you is, in October when my son returns safely home I will place this charm in the ground at a depth of 500mm. My son, and my family, make my Home......’ (PP, Dig & Sow participant in Potton. June 2012)

On Landguard Point by Carenza Lewis (2013).

Medieval Settlement Research 28 pp. 90‑92