December Mostra 2017 / Meet the artists…Josephine Baker-Heaslip

This is the fifth in our series of blog posts leading up to the December Mostra, our first exhibition of this academic year. As part of this series looking at the individual practices of our seven resident artists and resident architect, we interviewed Josephine Baker-Heaslip, our 2017-18 Sainsbury Scholar in Painting & Sculpture.


Photo: Alice Marsh

In the past few weeks you have been working on an ambitious number of works on paper. Is this a new development in your practice, or do you see this more as a natural progression from your more sculptural work? Is there a relationship between the two?

I have always made drawings, but their intensity has changed. I used to draw very quickly, and being able to slow the drawings down here in Rome has reminded me of drawings I made when I was a teenager, not as an art student. I am enjoying returning to this meticulous way of working. But I think it is a natural development as well, insofar as when you start in a new place and you do not have abundant facilities and tools around you, which you become used to as a sculptor. For example, when I graduated from the RA Schools in June I rented a temporary studio with no facilities at all, I had to change my methods and I started to draw on paper again, using chalk to create colour fields and patterns resembling landscapes. I find starting from scratch in this way helps me to see what is around me again.

I see drawing as the mediation between different moments or stages of a sculptural or more spatial practice, and for me it is often the place where ideas for new sculptures first arrive. I guess partly because of this the sculptures often feel quite flat, reduced and diagrammatic. I have often been told that they look like physical drawings in space. As I come from more of a printmaking background, working within the parameters of a surface comes relatively naturally. This limitation is also something that interests me about architectural space the building materials that I use.

I am currently taking things that I have learned from sculpture and reapplying them back into my drawings, to try to in turn figure out what can be made physical again. So, yes, it is a progression in my practice, by me learning how to look both into the past and future of my work. Making these intense landscape drawings now is going to inform the sculptures that I make here in the next months.


Josephine Baker-Heaslip, night is also a sun, 2016


Josephine Baker-Heaslip, new grass, 2017

What things in Rome have particularly struck you and influenced you during this period?

I’m not really able to talk about it until I can see the influences starting to operate in my work. For example, I can see it here in these drawings of organs.


Josephine Baker-Heaslip, last breath, 2017

It has been critical that in every church I have been into in Rome there has been this incredible strange musical edifice of the organ. Being confronted by an overtly Catholic culture here, as an atheist, has drawn out my interest in my own relationship to these places. The organ is so huge and so silent when it is not being played, even though it is practically the loudest instrument in the world. There is something about a need to believe and a will to sense, and how they are visible or invisible to one another, that is particularly powerful, which I want to try to visualize.

Also, in Rome the kerbs of the pavements have these interlocking sections. When my auntie visited me in Rome she said that my gran was always struck by these kerb patterns. Even though it is a very pragmatic form, it suddenly felt to me very personal and the shape became imbued with another kind of history. These interlocking semicircles now recur as a motif in a lot of my drawings.

I try to approach things very naively at times. Like seeing some huge holes through the façade of a Roman structure, and not knowing what they were for, guessing that they were to do with water, so my drawings of this form often have charcoal smudged into water flowing out of them. I like to play with the processes of the imagination and how they can predict reality, or structures of knowledge, in an attempt to figure out how I am affected by the landscapes around me.

Being here for twelve months I am able to take things quite slow and let the city take me by surprise. You never know what you are going to encounter and how it might change your practice. Rome is saturated with these moments, and at every turn there are moments that your gut has to pick out.

You are in Rome for 12 months, are there any specific places that you would like to visit?

I have been able to go to Venice for the Biennale and Turin for Artissima while I have been here, so far. However, in both places it has not been the art fairs or festivals necessarily, but other things that have struck me on my visits.

While in Italy, I am particularly interested in visiting the earthquake sites and in doing so start to understand a country that is much more affected by natural disasters (earthquakes and volcanoes) than the UK. I have used images of natural disasters in my work as a frightfully real metaphor for a lot of contemporary conditions. Thinking about the environment in the 21st Century and the distinction between natural and man-made catastrophe has been a constant theme in my practice for the past two years.

I would like to go and see Giampilieri Superiore (Messina) in Sicily, a small town that was completely decimated in 2009. And also visit the volcanic island of Stromboli. I don’t know exactly what will come out of these visits, but I know the motivation has much to do with observing a human relationship to nature in crisis, and how these extreme situations and their imagining relate to the complexity of the current migrant crisis.

How has being resident at the BSR affected your practice?

I am making a wall sculpture of a large backgammon board, based on a travel one that I have here in the studio that I brought with me, with the hope that I’d find someone to play with! This form has come into my work as both an architectural and natural one, and for me represents a certain kind of structure of loneliness. This is not immediately obvious from the work, of course, but for me it was the motivation to use this motif, as well as it being a popular ancient game in Mediterranean countries. The board, dice and pieces will also play with the ideas of cause, effect and chance — which are recurring themes in my work. So being at the BSR has affected me, but I think it is more about being self-aware and figuring out what you are affected by and using it in the work.

Will you show both sculpture and drawings in the mostra?

In the mostra I would like to use the space to experiment with the relationships between my sculptures and drawings. I didn’t end up doing this for the show at the RA Schools and I would really like to push this spatial relationship between really concentrated works on paper and scattered sculpture. I am looking forward to creating a series of connections in the room and from there think about where I would like to go next.

Josephine’s work will be exhibited alongside the seven other resident artists in the December Mostra. The opening will take place on Friday 15 December 18.30-21.00. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 23 December 2017, closed Sundays.

Interview conducted by Alice Marsh (Communications & Events)


December Mostra 2017 / Meet the artists… James Epps

This is the fourth in our series of blog posts leading up to the December Mostra, our first exhibition of this academic year. As part of this series looking at the individual practices of our seven resident artists and resident architect, we interviewed James Epps, our 2017-18 Augusta Scholar. 


Photo: Antonio Palmieri

There is a use of ‘unconventional’ materials in your works/installations. Would you agree?

For me they are not unconventional. At present in the studio I am using coloured paper tablecloths to make these wall drawings. Paper tablecloths are a material that most people will have encountered in Rome, they are not uncommon as such, it’s just that the context is different when used to make a drawing. I wanted to use a material that I had encountered in Rome, rather than bringing a material from my studio back home, so they make sense as a material to work with for me.

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Studio shot (Photo: James Epps)

I wanted to use a material that was here in abundance, that was commonplace, not something that is particularly specialist. It’s along the same lines of Arte Povera, where they would use potentially any material, often something quite cheap and very accessible. So in Italy there is this idea of using commonplace materials that are not traditional fine art materials, but the most appropriate materials for the work being made.

A paper tablecloth isn’t permanent, on a table you can spill wine and then it gets thrown away and a new one is got out for the next person. I like this quality that they are not meant to last, they are meant to be thrown away. The work I have been making in the studio and will show for the mostra, is site-specific, it will only be there for the duration of the show, then it will disappear. In a sense I am using the tablecloth in a way that is similar to how it is used on the street, at a table.

When looking in different shops in Rome and deciding what material to use I was really struck by the colours of the tablecloths. They were very easy to choose as they stood out in the shop above all the other things. It was an instinctive choice to go for them, then I began to think about the material in different ways, the qualities that it holds.

They are very quick and easy to make things with. I have been cutting them and using wallpaper paste to put them onto the walls. When I put them up, I do it in quite a quick way so that you get the wrinkles, you can see where they have been cut and torn, so both the speed of making and the materiality is visible there in the work once it is on the wall.

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Studio shot (Photo: James Epps)

I will not take any of the work home after the mostra, except for a few samples as a record. For me it is quite important that it just exists for a certain amount of time and only in that space. I don’t want to try and prolong it, I am interested in the finite moment of the work.

Have you already thought about what you will present at the December Mostra? Will there be an installation that will be a reaction to the space itself?

I have been doing lots of different trials and experiments in the studio, and seeing how I could work with the material, what it does and what might be possible. Looking in the gallery space helped quite a lot, visualising a particular context.


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Studio shot (Photo: James Epps)

Working with dimensions of the architectural features, and using a particular feature of the gallery means that I can repeat a pattern that mirrors the space. Going into the gallery and looking at the space has been completely integral to what I am going to make, I very much had the idea only after seeing the space.

The exhibition will be the first time the work exists. A lot of my work exists beforehand as paper plans and tests, but it will never exist or come together fully until I install in the space. There is always an unknown element until I make the work in-situ.

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Studio shot (Photo: James Epps)

Artists like Sol LeWitt in the past have spent quite a bit of time in Italy. Are there any specific artists that you are currently looking into during your stay in Rome that have passed through Italy/have had experience in Italy?

I have been looking into LeWitt’s work in Italy, he had a house in Spoleto and a lot of fresco painters informed his work. However, I think the thing that you can really see in his work made in Italy, is the use of colour.

Other artists who have previously worked here have said that in Italy they really wanted the colour to come through in what they made. There is a sense of life and excitement in these colours, which are qualities that you encounter in Rome. Colour has always been integral in my work, so this hasn’t necessarily just come from being in Rome, but it definitely feels pertinent to being here.

Before I came to the BSR I had been very conscious of Robert Rauschenberg’s time spent working around Italy and the Mediterranean, even though it was just for a relatively short period in his career. Seeing some of the iconic works he made, especially the photographs taken in the Capitoline Museums of the head of Constantine and his photos in Venice, you get the idea of his excitement of exploring Italy coming through the different images.

Robert Rauschenberg also made the Feticci Personali, which he installed in the Pincio Gardens, just across the park from the BSR. Being conscious of that work, which he made in such proximity to where we are based is difficult to ignore. He installed this work in the gardens, which was only ever going to be there for a brief moment. There is a spontaneity which feels very relevant to the way I make my work, going somewhere new and letting the environment inform what I make and, for me, really soaking up the city.

Have you visited many different sites while you have been resident here at the BSR? Are there any that have particularly inspired you?

Visiting the Etruscan Necropolis at Tarquinia was probably the most memorable visit that I’ve had so far, seeing the incredible painted Etruscan tombs. Some are figurative and some have mythological scenes, but they also use a lot of geometric patterns and colour banding. These paintings, despite being 2,500 years old, look very fresh and there was such a sense of life to them. The way that they were made also looks very quick and very free and those kinds of qualities definitely struck me. All the tombs are underground, down a dark staircase, and you have to press a little light to illuminate them, making it quite a theatrical experience. This visit has stuck with me, both because it was an experience that was quite alien to me and also the quality of the paintings they made.

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Etruscan Necropolis at Tarquinia, Tomb of the Leopards (Photo: James Epps)

You mention you are interested in patterns, have you looked at any of the mosaics in Rome?

In my project proposal I said that I would look at the mosaics at the Baths of Caracalla and also at Segni. Unfortunately it’s not possible to see the mosaics at Segni, but after discussing these mosaics with BSR Archaeology Officer, Stephen Kay, he told me of a similar interesting mosaic at the Villa of the Papyri, at Herculaneum. I was able to get a permit to visit this site thanks to Permissions Officer, Stefania Peterlini. It was incredible to see this mosaic preserved in such amazing condition and to see the original colours. The experience of having a guide to take me in on my own was incredible as I was able to encounter this mosaic still in the villa context without ropes and other people. 

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Tesserae mosaic in the Villa dei Papiri (Photo: James Epps)

Seeing mosaics in their original context was something I was very keen to do here in Italy, as opposed to seeing them in museums, where they are up on a wall, like a painting, rather than on the floor where they were intended to be encountered.

Seeing all the fantastic mosaics in churches, like the Basilica di San Marco in Venice, where every surface is covered with something, was incredible, opus sectile mosaics alongside Byzantine mosaics. It was really incredible seeing that intensity of artworks and decoration in one space.

How have you found working in the BSR community?

Going around Rome with different artists has been really good, seeing how other artists look at the city, as well as going with them to places that I might not otherwise think to visit myself.

My most fun trip to a church, probably in my whole life, was with Patrick O’Keeffe (Giles Worsley Rome Fellow) to San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, where I was part of an experiment he was conducting for his research, trying on eye-tracking goggles which track the specific route a person’s eyes follow within a space. There are some similarities between my work and what he is doing, how the eye engages with architecture and artworks, so it was a really interesting insight into how he approaches these questions from the perspective of an architect.

Being at the BSR feels like sitting down with twenty of the best tour guides in Rome for breakfast! To get a sense of the other award-holders’ and staff members’ enthusiasm for different places in Rome and their knowledge is very special.


James’ work will be exhibited alongside the seven other resident artists in the December Mostra. The opening will take place on Friday 15 December 18.30-21.00. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 23 December 2017, closed Sundays.

Interview conducted by Alice Marsh (Communications & Events)


December Mostra 2017 / Meet the artists… Emily Motto

This is the third in our series of blog posts leading up to the December Mostra, our first exhibition of this academic year. We will be taking a closer look at the individual practices of our seven resident artists and resident architect. Third to be interviewed is Emily Motto, our 2017-18 Derek Hill Foundation Scholar.


Photo: Antonio Palmieri

How has your project evolved since being in Rome?

When I came here the focus of my proposal was to look at lots of the Renaissance illusionistic frescos – and spend time in places like the Chiesa di Sant’Ignazio di Loyola in Campo Marzio, with the ceiling painted by Andrea Pozzo, and experience other frescos painted by him and others, like those we saw on our tour of the convent of Trinità dei Monti. I really wanted to take from how sculptural they are, and ways they play with the space and the shapes they’re painted on, and was thinking about how I could make pictures and drawings with a lot of volume. Our first trip to the Forum with Robert Coates-Stephens, and being surrounded by so many ruins, has also really inspired a lot of things I’ve been making here. I really like to make sculptures that have a sense of instability and transience – and this is so present in the city. Experiencing these different parts of Rome together has been an incredibly inspiring combination actually – seeing both decaying surfaces, and illusions of infinite content, of heavens.


Chiesa di Sant’Ignazio di Loyola in Campo Marzio, with the ceiling painted by Andrea Pozzo (Photo: Emily Motto)

Your installations incorporate a broad spectrum of materials and imagery. Could you tell us more about that?

The materials and imagery I use are things that I find and see around me. I think that there is something about tactility which is very important, and that they have some kind of sense of independence. And a kind of temporality that is fun to play with.

Before I came here I was printing lots of digital images in my work. But when I came here I was excited to explore the frescos and how images were constructed by hand, and for very specific viewing, hundreds of years before our use of digital replication.

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Provisional Conditions, Beaconsfield Gallery Vauxhall, London (Photo: Emily Motto)

Will this installation be different from work you have done in London?

Making things with materials that I have found here in Rome has been really great and quite different – I’ve been working a lot with these big rolls of cardboard as surfaces to paint on and build things with, and with cement. I’ve been experimenting with other ways to scale things that I’ve seen to these more palpable sizes without the large printer I was using back in London too, using different ways of projecting, and by drawing freehand. I have taken a lot of photographs while I have been here too as a process of recording things, which I’m sure I’ll continue using when I get back to London, there’s been so much to take in here.

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Work in progress, studio shot (Photo: Emily Motto)

There seem to be many layers and access points when seeing/reading your work. Have you found any overlap between your practice and the structure of the city?

In the first and second week I found the layers of the city a bit overwhelming – but very inspiring in that kind of confusion. I found it tricky to distinguish between all the different layers of ancient ruins, as to me everything was so new. The longer I have been here, and with the historians, the easier it has been to distinguish between these and see how they all fit together. I love all the stories of reuse of materials in the city. There is this heaviness in the way that everything has been preserved at the moment here, and how the decay of the remaining fragments and monuments has been controlled. I like to use the weight and fragility of materials I’m using, and to use all of these dependencies with an openness to making something else – passing control to different materials or parts of the process, I suppose it’s quite organic in that sense. The Roman skies are something I have been really inspired by when walking around and being here – perhaps even more so than the skies and heavens in the frescos I was keen to see actually.

Will you incorporate these skies into the installation?

Yes, I think I will. I have been painting some of these skies out from the photos I’ve taken – the buildings are so heavy and dense without them. And I’ve been painting these large quite flat solid skies alongside these towers in the studio. The skies are so important in these heavenly frescos, but also in so much of the architecture here, which I hadn’t realized before, especially in structures like the Pantheon. Rome seems to be full of these allusions to the infinite.

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Studio shot (Photo: Emily Motto)

How have you found working alongside artists, architects and scholars at the BSR?

I have learned so much from being at the BSR and visiting places with the historians. I’ve discovered so many stories and histories to things that I never would have known of the fragments if I’d seen them alone, like how so much of the marble in churches, like St Peter’s, was actually pinched from the Colosseum walls.

You are part Italian, how are you reconnecting with your Italian heritage while you are here?

Yes, and what was really cool was hearing the Paolozzi lecture (‘Eduardo Paolozzi: transnational belongings’ Derek Duncan, St Andrews), as my dad is Italian but born in England, and my nonna is from a village a few hours outside of Rome. She came to the UK in a very similar to way to Paolozzi’s family who left around the time of the war – and worked making ice cream like them too! It was exciting to hear how that inspired his work, and I’m looking forward to visiting my relatives whilst I’m here.

Emily’s work will be exhibited alongside the seven other resident artists in the December Mostra. The opening will take place on Friday 15 December 18.30-21.00. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 23 December 2017, closed Sundays.

Interview conducted by Alice Marsh (Communications & Events)

December Mostra 2017 / Meet the artists… Dominic Watson

This is the second in our series of blog posts leading up to the December Mostra, our first exhibition of this academic year. We will be taking a closer look at the individual practices of our seven resident artists and resident architect. Second to be interviewed is Dominic Watson, our 2017-18 Rome Fellow in Contemporary Art.


Photo: Antonio Palmieri

Dominic is a video artist who will show a video of Fascist sculptures at EUR and Foro Italico

You mentioned a transition in your practice from sculpture to less physical work (video art)… could you tell us a bit more about that? 

I studied sculpture on my BA, when I was a young artist figuring out what art is and what it all means. After a four-year course doing sculpture I sort of felt that it was what I was supposed to be doing, and felt like I had committed to it. But I struggled with making sculpture for ages and really found it difficult to make it do what I wanted it to. I would often make something and expect too much from it. But no viewer is ever going to have as intimate a knowledge as you do of the work that is in your head. So I went through this very public divorce, trying to get over sculpture. I began to make videos. When I started to make the videos I really went right back to the start of what it might mean to make art. I tried to forget all my art education and just start from the beginning.


I started to make these performance of quite crude gestures or actions. Essentially using my body to make sculpture within a landscape, as opposed to using clay or bronze.

In this second video I used the idea of sculpture as the subject to try to talk about sculpture in the dumbest and the least respectful way possible, adopting the persona of a wayward football fan trying to provoke or undermine this inanimate object.

I made a whole series of these performances and eventually stopped with the sculpture and became more interested in the physical body and dancing. Now I have come to Rome and sculpture has come back into my work, so really I have come around full circle.

What are you working on in Rome?

I am making this video which is comprised of footage I have taken of Fascist sculptures from EUR and Foro Italico.

The scenes are intersected with footage of objects that I have made. One is an internal bodily scene – here are some cells I have been making.


Mitochondria cells (Photo: Alice Marsh)



Muscle fibre (Photo: Dominic Watson)

These mitochondria cells, which entered the human biological system about two million years ago are responsible for the ageing process. Scientists think that they are able to essentially prevent the ageing process, which is fascinating and also, quite disturbing. The idea that this invention would create a dystopian world and a divide between society — a sort of fascism in a way. Between those who can afford it and those who can’t.

I am interested in exploring this idea using the sculptures that were built in the 1920s and 1930s at EUR and Foro Italico.


Statue from Foro Italico (Photo: Dominic Watson)

The bodies are very distorted and overly muscular. I have been filming and focusing on them to the point where they have become abstract and a lot less like human bodies. I am essentially trying to create an aesthetic that is kind of a genetic mutation and genetic preservation I guess.

The protagonist of the film is a modern-day alchemist.  I’m taking this historical figure and putting him in a contemporary context, he will be a kind of puppet animated through stop frame animation. I’m working on these prosthetic hands at the moment.


Prosthetic hand (Photo: Alice Marsh)

The film will be overlaid with a musical score which I’ll edit too.

Have you chosen the musical score…?

No, it’ll be less music and more sound effects. I want to make it sound very clumsy and heavy handed, sound effects — as opposed to musical instruments — are less harmonious which really helps with this. There shall be very little language in it, and what I do use will be very basic. I am even thinking of putting in a few words in Italian. My grasp of Italian is pretty poor and I am quite interested in limiting the vocabulary I can use.

Has it been easy filming in these locations?

I have done loads of filming so far at the Foro Italico. I’ve filmed once at night because I wanted the spot lights on them. But when I got there the lights were off and it was pitch black. There were some sculptures that were close to the football stadium and they were lit by the light from the car park, which gave this really nice amber effect, it gives the stones this strange molten-like quality. Then I went back again and the lights were on and the footage is completely different, it looks very black and white almost like Expressionist cinema. The size of the statues, being so tall, means that the angle of the camera is always quite tight so the footage feels quite ominous.



Statues from Foro Italico (Photos: Dominic Watson)

EUR is weird, here there are more references to mythology and Classical sculpture. But at the Foro Italico you can see the true obsession with form and that is when the true and real ideas of the sculpture come out, there is something a bit more subversive.

Do you think you will be coming back to Rome?

Yeah I think that I will, I would love to. There are already so many other works that I would like to make while I am here. So after the show I shall see what what materials I can extract, and make extra footage.


Dominic’s work will be exhibited alongside the seven other resident artists in the December Mostra. The opening will take place on Friday 15 December 18.30-21.00. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 23 December 2017, closed Sundays. 

Interview conducted by Alice Marsh (Communications & Events)

December Mostra 2017 / Meet the artists… Patrick O’Keeffe

As we approach the December Mostra, our first exhibition of this academic year, we will be publishing a series of blogs taking a closer look at the individual practices of our seven resident artists and resident architectural fellow. The first to be interviewed is Patrick O’Keeffe (Kent), our 2017-18 Giles Worsley Rome Fellow.


Photo: Antonio Palmieri

Patrick’s BSR project ‘Hearing spaces’ — is focused on an exploration of the use of harmony and dissonance within classical architecture in Rome, expressed and interpreted through music.

What are your plans for your residency at the BSR?

While resident here at the BSR I have been working on two projects. Although these projects are different in approach, they both look at finding alternative ways of understanding well-known architectural phenomena.

My first proposal looks at the original Renaissance proportional systems from Pythagorean/Platonic musical harmony – the project looks to create hybrid architectural/musical models, aiming to provide the opportunity for people to physically hear the proportional relationships within Renaissance architecture; in this case the Tempietto del Bramante.

The second proposal has developed during my fellowship and seeks to use eye-tracking software as a way of investigating and displaying the ways people perceive and interact with a space; it will track and compare the eye movements of individuals from different disciplines and within different Baroque spaces, focusing on Borromini’s San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane.

What are you looking at in Rome in particular?

Each proposal will investigate a number of spaces but centre around a well-known architectural archetype from their respective period. I hope that by looking at them in a new way I will be able to provide a multi-sensory analysis of these iconic monuments.

At the Tempietto at San Pietro in Montorio, I aim to produce a cast model of the building with musical strings running along the prominent dimensions. When plucked, these will produce sounds directly correlating to the spatial ‘harmony’ within the building. Musical harmony is something I think most people can intuitively perceive, so translating a building composed on the same principles into this medium will hopefully offer an alternative interpretation.


Tempietto di San Pietro in Montorio (Photo: Patrick O’Keeffe)

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3D printing in action (Photo: Patrick O’Keeffe)

At San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane – I have made a pair of eye-tracking goggles which allow me to track the specific route a person’s eyes follow within the space. By comparing results from people of different disciplines and within different buildings, I aim to start a dialogue about the ways in which we understand space; the results will be displayed with both images and physical models.

San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane

Testing the eye-tracking goggles (Photo: Patrick O’Keeffe)

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Following the route of a person’s eyes within the space (Photo: Patrick O’Keeffe)

How have you found working alongside artists and scholars?

The environment at the BSR is unique. The nightly dinners have given me an amazing opportunity to discuss, share and develop my ideas in the ‘melting pot’ of ideas that is the BSR community. Without this, I am sure my second project would not have developed in the way that it has.


Patrick’s work will be exhibited alongside the seven other resident artists in the December Mostra. The opening will take place on Friday 15 December 18.30-21.00. Opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 23 December 2017, closed Sundays.

Interview conducted by Alice Marsh (Communications & Events)






BSR at BMTA 2017

This year the annual Borsa Mediterranea del Turismo Archeologico ( celebrated its 20th anniversary. Hosted in the wonderful surroundings of the Parco Archeologico di Paestum , the annual fair brings together leaders in cultural heritage, tourism, politics, education, publishing and archaeology.

Temple of Neptune Photo Stephen Kay

Video mapping onto the façade of the Temple of Neptune (Photo: Stephen Kay)

Against the backdrop of the stunning 5th century BC Tomb of the Diver,  this year the BMTA also honoured the family of Khaled al-Asaad, the Syrian archaeologist and the head of antiquities for the ancient city of Palmyra who was killed in 2015 for his protection of the site.

Tomb of the Diver Photo Stephen Kay

5th century BC Tomb of the Diver (Photo: Stephen Kay)

Ceremony Photos Stephen Kay

BMTA honour the family of Khaled al-Asaad (Photo: Stephen Kay)

Together with 120 exhibitors from 30 different countries, the event also hosts a series of ‘Archeo Incontri’, an opportunity for the public to engage with archaeologists and hear about new research projects underway around the Mediterranean.

For several years the BSR has participated in the event under the umbrella of AIAC (Associazione Internazionale di Archeologia Classica) and the Unione Internazionale degli Istituti di Archeologia, Storia e Storia dell’ Arte in Roma. This year the institutes offered a glimpse into the work of the archaeologist in the digital era. The session, moderated by Kristian Göransson (AIAC President and Director of the Swedish Institute of Classical Studies in Rome), saw the participation this year of four speakers, Eeva-Maria Viitanen (Institutum Romanum Finlandia), Ségolène Maudet (École Française de Rome), Olof Brandt (Pontifico Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana) and our own Archaeology Officer Stephen Kay.

BMTA Photo Elena Pomar

The BSR’s Stephen Kay, participates in the panel discussion (Photo: Elena Pomar)

The University of Southampton and the BSR have been leading exponents of the application of digital technologies in archaeology, whether through geophysics, recording techniques or 3D modelling. At the same time as Simon Keay’s keynote lecture at the Being Human festival in Rome (see last week’s blog by BSR Research Fellow Peter Campbell), Stephen was able to show how through a combination of digital technologies in the field, the Portus Project has been able to reconstruct individual buildings and the landscape of Rome’s Imperial port.

Stephen Kay (Archaeological Officer)

Being Human at the BSR

We asked BSR Research Fellow Peter Campbell to look back on last week’s workshop Lost and Found (part of the festival of humanities Being Human) from his perspective as a researcher in the study of antiquities trafficking networks.

On Friday 27 October, the British School at Rome hosted Lost and Found: Places, Objects and People, a workshop that is part of the Being Human Festival. The workshop brought together experts from various backgrounds to discuss cultural preservation. Looting of ancient sites has recently been in the international spotlight following actions by Islamic State, but trafficking of antiquities has been a significant problem for many decades.


Cultural heritage is a central component of what it means to be human, so the workshop subject is important to the festival. This is a sentiment expressed by Professor Sarah Churchwell and BSR Director Professor Stephen J. Milner to commence the meeting. Being Human is led by Sarah at the School of Advanced Study (SAS), University of London, in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy. The BSR and Being Human are in a unique position to bring together international experts and discuss topics such as this.

Archaeological sites are being looted and destroyed on a large scale across the world, but how do we quantify and mitigate the loss when we do not know the full extent of the cultural resources? This is what Dr Robert Bewley (University of Oxford) discussed in his talk about the Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East and North Africa (EAMENA) project. Using aerial photography, Robert’s team has been able to identify archaeological sites and revisit them years later, documenting changes to the sites. This is invaluable to those studying looting, as operating on such a large-scale is quite difficult. Over the years Robert has noted a number of different threats to archaeological sites. One of the foremost is the increase in populations, which leads to increased development and infrastructure which cuts through sites. New forms of agriculture and mining have also leveled sites that the team had identified in previous years. Of course, conflict is also a significant threat, such as Islamic State. In one example, Robert discussed how Islamic State may have blown up monuments in order to cover up looting of friezes that were trafficked out of the region for sale on the black market.


Robert Bewley discusses the use of aerial photography in documenting changes to archaeological sites.

Mosaics are one of the most beautiful forms of ancient art, but also one of the most delicate. Dr Roberto Nardi (Centro di Conservazione Archeologica, Roma) gave a masterful presentation on how mosaics are under threat from conflict and looting, but also poor conservation practices in the past, as well as archaeologists who do not know how to properly preserve mosaics in situ. Roberto has organized a training programme for conservators working in North Africa and the Middle East, named MOSAIKON and funded by the Getty Foundation. In his presentation, as well as in videos made by the conservation students, he showed how the program develops independence, construction of locate labs, and interventions to save mosaics. These interventions were needed not only in North Africa and the Middle East, but in Italy as well.

Dr Anna Leone (Durham University) and Morgan Belzic (École Pratique des Hautes Études) presented their recent work conducting training in North Africa, along with coauthors Dr Corisande Fenwick (UCL) and Dr William Wootton (KCL), who were not in attendance. The presentation was wide-ranging, but the training programs appear to have substantial deliverables. The team has created an app called HeDAP (Heritage Documentation and Protection) that uses photo identification algorithms to make a searchable database for identifying looted artifacts. It is currently being trialed in North Africa, but they hope it will soon be available for broader regions and law enforcement. They raised excellent points about data and storage. What happens during periods of conflict? Who has access to the databases? In one example, museum workers had to build false walls to hide artifacts from Islamic State. There are no good solutions, which led to a substantial discussion. It made me think about the Archaeological Data Service, which hosts a server storing open data, or the use of blockchain technology, which is a decentralized network so that data cannot be corrupted or lost. Perhaps a system where the data is stored across a network, but only accessible to certain individuals would preserve data for the long term. Solutions need to be found in order to protect antiquities and sites in conflict regions.


Gianluigi D’Alfonso of the Guardia di Finanza on how art and antiquities are used by criminal groups for laundering and profit.

Rarely does the public hear about the law enforcement side of trafficking, which made the presentation by Generale Gianluigi D’Alfonso (Comandante della Guardia di Finanza) particularly interesting. He discussed how art and antiquities are used by criminal groups for laundering and profit. The Generale had several cases where criminal organizations had purchased works of art specifically for laundering, fencing and tax evasion. One of the most gripping examples was a group of Vincent van Gogh paintings that were recently confiscated and returned to a museum setting. The presentation raised a number of questions about how we think about antiquities in the hands of criminals. What percentage of their illegal art is collection and what percentage is laundering? Or perhaps there is no clear distinction.


Simon Keay on public engagement at Portus

Professor Simon Keay (University of Southampton; BSR) concluded the workshop’s archaeology presentations with an overview of the Portus Project and the new means of collecting and presenting archeological data. The site of Portus is of such a large-scale that many years of research have been required to understand the ancient imperial harbour. Of particular interest, Simon discussed how the site is being presented to the public. Located near Fiumicino Airport, Portus is being advertised to travelers as an easy side trip. The number of visitors has increased each year, showing that this forgotten gem is finally receiving the attention it deserves. Even people who are not in Rome can visit Portus through the online platforms that the project uses, such as an online course and web tour.


HMA Jill Morris with Paul Sellers (Director, British Council Italy) and Sarah Churchwell (Director of the Being Human Festival, and Professor of American Literature and Public Understanding of the Humanities at the School of Advanced Study, University of London)

The workshop ended with a viewing of the British Council film Desti\Nations. It is a fascinating short piece that discusses migration and movement within the modern world. The film was introduced by British Ambassador Jill Morris, who spoke on the intertwined nature of Britain, Europe, and the Mediterranean world. Jill and the film told of shared cultures, with the film telling of a family with North African and Italian background, as well as the members’ migrations to and from locations around the world. [BSR Director] Stephen concluded the workshop with the observation that not only does modern Europe face these migration, but Medieval Italy did as well. Much like the flow of cultures in the ancient world, modern migrations take place for many reasons such as conflict, employment, and family. The film was a terrific conclusion to the Being Human workshop, which left the audience with much to consider.


L to R: Stephen Milner, Sarah Churchwell, Anna Leone, Robert Bewley, HMA Jill Morris, Simon Keay, Roberto Nardi, Paul Sellers.

Peter Campbell (BSR Research Fellow)

Photos by Antonio Palmieri.