Day 3: From Groups to Hubs

By Rebecca Levitan and Sarah Middle

On our third day in Athens, we began to transition from the three teams formed in London (Provenance, Geographies, Visualization). Although we will continue to work on our White Papers in the three primary teams over the course of our time in Athens, new themes and hubs will take precedence for the remaining seven days of our time together.

After ranking our choices, we were reorganized and assigned to new ‘Hub’ groups with the explicit purpose of distributing interests across the new divisions. We spent the morning in our new groups and continued the discussion over lunch. Our leaders suggested thinking about a sculpture we visited in London, the Leighton House Dancing Faun, in the context of four new ‘hubs’: ideas, style, objects, and people. Because the Leighton House sculpture is a copy of a more famous work, which is in itself an ancient copy, this is a complex enterprise.

In the afternoon we gathered to share our initial thoughts about the hubs. Each group delivered a brief presentation:

  • The Ideas group was interested in how ideas associated with the Faun, especially its erotic significance, have changed over time and how this aspect of the artwork fit within larger societal norms, or transgressed them in the case of the Victorian era. The group was also interested in how the Faun’s significance varied depending on display context. For instance, the Pompeiian and Leighton House contexts are both domestic.
  • The People group used the Faun as an entry point by thinking about all the different types of actors who may have interacted with the object from its inception to the present. It became clear to the group that there are, in fact, several Fauns which together form one ‘conceptual faun.’ The group then created a table of about 25 types of actors which each corresponded with one or more iterations of the Faun (Greek original, Roman copy, Naples copy, Leighton House copy, and the ‘conceptual Faun’) and used Palladio to map these relationships in a network and on a map. Although this was simply a preliminary form of visualization it helped with thinking through the relationships between a single object and the many associated creators and consumers.
  • The Styles group asked if there was a data-driven way for styles to be understood, attempting to move away from artificial constructions such as periodization based on style. Using an impossible case study of how a Roman-style car might look, the group tried to highlight assumptions about the affordances of style.
  • The Objects group started by identifying key attributes that should be represented in metadata about the Faun, in particular the materials and processes involved in its creation and the possible links that can be made to other objects. They moved on to discuss creating visualizations from the point of view of the object itself, based on ‘episodes’ in its life story: from creation to transportation to display in various contexts. Finally, they posed questions about predicting the future life of the object and how this relates tos the potential role of the digital.

We are excited to travel to two sites tomorrow – Isthmia and ancient Corinth, led by Jon Frey. In the afternoon we began to investigate websites and databases which deal with material from these two sites in advance of our visit. The goal is to be familiar with Ideas, People, Styles, and Objects that we may encounter and how those might be used as case studies, much like the example of the Dancing Faun.

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