UCL East


Blog: An excavation without breaking ground

4 December 2020

Jacob Blackaller, one of two Student Artists in Residence in 2019/20, writes about the artistic posture he decided to take for the UCL East residency, as an archaeologist and anthropologist.

One of the artistic structures created by Jacob Blackaller as part of the UCL East artist student in residence scheme.

For the past year, I have been one of the appointed Artists in Residence for UCL EAST, making work in response to the development of the ongoing project.

The absence of key information or knowledge, and the projection of narrative onto situations as a way of working them out, are subjects that help to inform the way I make work.

My practice can feel like guess work, trial and error, or even a process of elimination. It is my intention to make mistakes so that I have to find a solution. My work may refer to itself, for example diagrams of how I will construct or assemble the sculpture.

The works can be seen as proposals or stages towards something that might never be made.

I was drawn to the residency because of the shared association with the notion of planning evident in the large scale nature of the UCL EAST project and my own artistic practice.

During my time as Artist in Residence I adopted a fictional role of archaeologist and anthropologist.

Meetings with various teams involved in the UCL EAST project fed me snippets of information but left me with a feeling of detachment from one another. I was left to weave these ideas together. No information was kept out of reach but I decided to work it out myself, learning bits and pieces here and there but not the complete picture - purposely limiting my knowledge to extracts of information.

A layer on top of a layer on top of a layer. My impression of the project began to fog over whatever actually existed. The fictional history in my mind draped over the building foundations of the campus. Foundations that assert themselves into land that was once brownfield. I encouraged the three layers to bleed into one another and exist simultaneously.

Mine is an excavation without breaking ground. An inability to penetrate the surface. Perhaps it is just a plan for something that will never begin.


Photo credit: Jacob Blackaller

Learn more about the Student Artist in Residence programme

Read a blog by Seren Metcalfe, the other 2019/20 Student Artist in Residence.