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Expanded Interiors: Bringing contemporary site-specific fine-art practice to Roman houses at Herculaneum and Pompeii

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Catrin Huber


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This interdisciplinary research project draws site-specific contemporary fine art practice into a unique dialogue with ancient Roman wall paintings and architectural remains at the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Herculaneum and Pompeii. The research questions in this project were: 1. How can the principles of Roman wall painting inform contemporary fine art installations? 2. How can contemporary fine art practice inform our understanding of the relationship between Roman wall painting and archaeological artefacts? 3. How can the findings from questions (1) and (2) stimulate fresh ways of displaying Roman artefacts on site, while allowing for creative exploration of these replicas? Huber explored through practice-led research the specific wall paintings of two Roman houses. Particular attention was given to artistic decisions regarding 2D/3D space; open/closed walls; multiple ways of integrating imagery; colour/light relationship to surrounding room/building. She tested strategies of Roman wall paintings through/for contemporary practice via an experimental creative approach using drawing, photography, collage, painting, and working with 3D models. Further, 3D experimentation with replica was combined with testing of interactions between replicas and Roman/contemporary wall paintings, culminating in the development of the three site-specific installations. How critical spatial practice can transform sites is a hotly debated topic within site-specific art and architecture (e.g. Rendell 2006, Hirsch/Miessen 2002), but no one has, to our knowledge, looked back at Roman wall painting as a source that can offer new practical strategies to negotiate public and private space within contemporary fine-art practice. It is also new that the specific debates concerning Roman wall paintings are explored through Contemporary fine-art making. A book published by Kerber (ISBN: TBC) provides texts by experts in the field, and firmly positions this research within a contemporary fine art context.

Publication metadata

Artist(s): Huber C

Publication type: Exhibition

Publication status: Published

Year: 2018

Number of Pieces: 31

Venue: Casa del Bel Cortile and Casa del Criptoportico

Location: Herculaneum and Pompeii

Media of Output: 3D prints, photography, painting, installations