Amara West project blog

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Investigating life in an Egyptian town

Amara West 2014: perceptions of the unseen

Ernetta island – turning the camera

Phil Bosch, visual artist

Phil recording Super 8 footage from the spoil heap at Amara West

Phil recording Super 8 footage from the spoil heap at Amara West

As a visual artist, I became very interested in visiting the archaeological project at Amara West in Sudan as it is a document ‘in progress’ of an urban environment, concerning people in their day to day lives, during times of ecologic changes and shifts in political context.

I have been at Amara West for two weeks (and feeling quite overwhelmed by all the knowledge that I run into every day), taking my general research on what knowledge comes from perception – and the relation the spectator has with an image – as my point of departure. What is it that shapes my perception, and what is it that I assume in vision, what is the framework I am looking through?

Before knowledge: difficult to identify – as represented by photograph with focal point before object

Before knowledge: difficult to identify – as represented by photograph with focal point before object

During my stay I feel that my way of working is somehow related to the work of the archaeologists: we both try to come to new knowledge through vision and visuality, trying to stay close to the initial found materials, seeking a position where there is no meanings being applied yet. Trying to see the things as they are, and be aware of this process of addressing meanings.

Before understanding: collected from site, awaiting analysis

Before understanding: collected from site, awaiting analysis

YET the question that surfaced, again one that I feel to share with the work of an archaeologist, is to try to see what one can not see … what is not there, yet take this position of not being able to see as a source of coming to new knowledge as a very important strategy.


Neal Spencer: in the town, we can be lulled into a sense of knowledge through the excellent preservation of architecture. What about the upper storeys of house? Where has evidence been removed, through pitting, levelling and clearance of old buildings? What objects are missing? Why – peservation issues, removed from site or never present?

Villager from Ernetta asked to film his perception of the local environment

Villager from Ernetta asked to film his perception of the local environment

Another question is to think about how value is established in the gaze. For me and for the archaeologist, it is very interesting to reflect on what is of value in the findings, and what is it that one dismisses in these findings? I find it interesting to explore the gap (and make this visible) that exists between the world that is recorded and framed, yet in fact is continuously in motion, changing all the time. It is this gap in spectatorship that I find of great interest. (…. so far..)


Neal Spencer: archaeology is typically presented as a series of static diagrams, plans and photos, typically in printed books with fixed text. Yet the process is dynamic and overwhelmingly three dimensional, and seeks evidence of dynamic phenomena at different scales and times. We also have a tendency to remove the people – archaeologists and local workmen – from archaeology: carefully staged site and object photos.

Alongside regular updates on the blog, follow the season on Twitter: @NealSpencer_BM and #amarawest

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