Sunday, June 28, 2009

Vanderpool House at Pikermi

I have been thinking about writing an essay called "The House that Archaeology Built" that reviews architectural patronage by foreign archaeologists in Greece. From Heinrich Schliemann's house in Athens to Fred Cooper's house in Neohori, archaeologist houses present a fascinating type of home-making. The architecture of foreign archaeologists illustrate a physical, spiritual and scholarly connection with their newly adopted home. Construction proceeds from the ground to the roof in reverse order from the process of excavation. Some of the most interesting archaeologist houses, therefore, address the paradoxical relationship between the past (the very reason to come to Greece), the present (the home that shelters research) and the future (the masonry that will outlive its occupant). The archaeologists of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA) have used different strategies to deal with the paradox of building-dwelling-thinking. One unique example is the house of Eugene Vanderpool at Pikermi, Attica, 12 miles outside of Athens.

Antiquated Vagaries (April 3, May 14, May 22, 2009) has posted a great oral history project, the interview of Pierre MacKay on the ASCSA of 1959-60. Discussing Eugene Vanderpool, MacKay echoes a comment that I have heard repeated by other Vanderpool students: "The Vanderpools had a place at Pikermi. They kept themselves to themselves, very much outside the world of the school. I've never seen the place out in Pikermi, one or two special students of Vanderpool have, but basically he and she [Mr. and Mrs. Vanderpool] wanted to have two separate lives and this was respected." I have asked dozens of ASCSA members of that generation about the Pikermi house but no one had seen it. A good source might be John Camp and, of course, Cathy Vanderpool. In an earlier posting, Art Deco Beauty (Dec. 2, 2007), I discussed the rich cultural life of Joan Bush Vanderpool, inspired by seeing her 1929 portrait by Tamara de Lempicka. Since then, I've been collecting more information about Joan Vanderpool's friendships with contemporary Greek intellectuals. I thank Artemis Leontis for sharing with me her research on the friendship between Mrs. Vanderpool and Eva Palmer Sikelianos. Letters from the 1930s also refer to a house in Xylokastro, Corinthia, where some of the ASCSA students met the Vanderpools (Alison Frantz correspondence).

But what about the house at Pikermi? As it turns out, the house was not a secret, but treated like a celebrity house in the Greek architectural press. I came across the first reference to the house in Demetris Philippides, Athens Suburbs and Countryside in the 1930s (Athens, 2006), p. 92. This is a great book documenting the development of suburbs like Psychiko and Philothei and their innovative architectural expressions. The Pikermi house is unique because it was built around an abandoned monastery. In 1956, the Vanderpools converted a 16th-century monastery into a house. I find this to be a fantastic proposition, especially in relationship to Rhys Carpenter's Folly at Ancient Corinth (see, Hesperia article). No other archaeologist house incorporates so fundamentally the sensibilities of living in ruins. The house at Pikermi also belongs to a distinctively American preoccupation regarding restoration, renovation, cloisters and the medieval past.

The Vanderpools were one of the most influential figures in the history of the ASCSA both in terms of the School's academic and extracurricular cultural life. Unlike many other faculty, they maintained a healthy separation between family and academic life. Although they guarded their private life in Pikermi, they were not guarded about the building itself. In 1958, Greece's leading architecture journal featured an article on the house, by Associated Press correspondant Vasos Mingos, "Ένα σπίτι 400 ετών υιοθετείται από Αμερικανική οικογένεια (A 400-Year Old House in Attika is Adopted by an American Family)" Αρχιτεκτονική 7 (1958), pp. 16-21. The article includes a sketch map drawn by Eugene Vanderpool himself, showing the exact location of the house, and an architectural plan (above). The original 16th-c building, the "cloister" is stippled and the additions are shaded in the plan (above). Some 18 photographs show interiors and exteriors, along with Mrs. Vanderpool and her young daughter Ann, "a Bryn Mawr student." The article summarizes the building's history, architectural features (including Mr. Vanderpool's research for comperanda) and Spanish furnishing. The visual juxtaposition of Spanish antiques within a medieval Greek space illustrates a dominant 30s aesthetic of a Mediterranean style. Objects such as a sculpture of Catherine of Aragon were acquired by Mrs. Vanderpool's father, through the American ambassador of Spain. The Spanish interior is also interesting considering the ASCSA's interests in Crusader Greece, including the Catalan and Aragonese towers of Attica.

I do not know what has happened to the Vanderpool house. It would be easy to learn about its state of ownership and preservation. In my mind, it is an architectural landmark. Its publication in Αρχιτεκτονική marks it as a celebrity house. Unlike Greek architecture journals today, the bilingual Αρχιτεκτονική (1957-67) was widely read internationally. Greek modernist were in the forefront of architectural debates (CIAM, Athens Charter, Doxiadis, etc.) Most good architecture libraries subscribed to it, including 70 libraries in the U.S. -- I first read the journal at Clemson University's Art and Architecture library, for example. The house in Pikermi was an internationally celebrated domestic space that marks a timely intersection between archaeology and design.

There are many houses connected to the lives of ASCSA luminaries, and each one offers unique notions. The list of great houses would include Schliemann's house in Athens (designed by Ernst Ziller, 1878), Villia Ilissia (designed by Kleanthes, 1838, for Philadelphia philhelene, now Byzantine Museum), the first American School Building (1878, by W. R. Ware) and Loring Hall (1929), the Duncan House at Kopanos (1903), a series of houses designed by Piet de Jong in Macedonia (1917, built 1930, I have oral histories for a specific home in Herakleia), the Rhys Carpenter folly in Corinth (1930), Oakley House in Corinth designed by Richard Stillwell (1920s), Hill House in Corinth designed by Charles Williams (1972, after original burned down, along with Mr. Williams' dissertation manuscript), the Shear House in Corinth, the Broneer House in Corinth (1950s, currently James Herbst and Ioulia Tzonou Herbst house), the Sanders house in Corinth (1990s, on-going restoration project), the Hill-Blegen House in Athens (Ploutarchou 8), the Alison Frantz/Lucy Tacott apartment in Athens, Hill House in Athens (1920s), James Merrill's House in Athens (donated to the ASCSA and now John Camp's house), Frederick Cooper's experimental house in Neohori (1960s), the Kalligas House in Monemvasia (1980s). I'm sure there are plenty more archaeologist houses of interest and I would love to hear about them. A collective study of all these works, would also need to consider the architecture of the foreign schools more broadly, from

A model for innovative domestic scholarship that combines architecture and social history is Alice Friedman's, Women and the Making of the Modern House: A Social and Architectural History (New York, 1998).

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Scottish fustanella

While researching America's relationship with Greece in the 1930s, it dawned on me that Greece occupied a parallel place in the American imagination as Ireland and Scotland. In other words, the American discovery of folk Greece happened at exactly the same time as the discovery of the Irish, Celtic and other less modernized regions of the United Kingdom. Similarities in constructing the Irish and Greek modern nation-states is well known. The revival of dead languages (Gaelic and Katharevousa) and scholarly exploitations of folk culture were common strategies in nation-building. Eric Hobsbawn has addressed modern Greece, Ireland and Israel in his classic, Nations and Nationalism since 1780 (1990).

I have always wondered what thoughts may have gone through an American's mind when first seeing the Greek "national" costume, the white kilt known as fustanella. A 1934 American film promoting Mediterranean tourism makes the connection between Scottish kilts and the Greek fustanella quite direct. Narrator James A. Fitzpatrick claims direct descent. This circuitous genealogy, no doubt, reflects popular notions of the 1930s. The film, "Citadels of the Mediterranean" (click here or here), starts in Andalusia and ends in Athens. Segments 6:06-6:50 mins. shows Greek soldiers perform a dance in the Olympic Stadium. The narrator's voice explains:

"As a matter of individuality, no army has ever excelled that of Greece in costuming its soldiers. And no army or navy has yet developed a dance like the one that was staged for us by the president's bodyguard regiment of the Greek army. The origin of this unique costume goes back to the highlands of Albania and it is preserved in Athens today almost exclusively by the presidential guard. The early Roman soldiers copied it from the Greeks and during their conquest of the British Isles it was adopted and modified by the Scottish highlanders."

During the 1930s, British and American archaeologists occasionally put on fustanellas on special celebrations. American expats like George Cram Cook, co-founder of the Provincetown Players, gave up western fashions entirely and embraced the fustanella. Cook's photo above was published in a biography written by his widow, Susan Glaspell, The Road to the Temple (New York, 1927). Humfrey Payne, director of the British School in Athens (1929-1936), was another such figure "going native" for special occasions, the local festivals in Perachora. See photos in his biography, also written by his widow, Dilys Powell, The Traveller's Journey is Done (London, 1943). The American School's photographic archive contains many images of American archaeologists sporting Greek costumes. At first glance, such cross-dressing may be interpreted as a form of orientalism. But the story seems more complicated. By wearing a Greek fustannella, British or American archaeologists also evoked their own national traditions via Scotland. For some others, wearing folk costumes was an act of rebellion, sharing with the avant-garde (such as Isadora Duncan's dressing rebellion).

The Scottish relationship with Greece is also evident in the development of particularly Presbyterian attitudes. Peter Brown first pointed this out to me in a casual conversation. Presbyterians (Church of Scotland) had a different relationship with classical Greece than Anglicans (Church of England). Classicists from Presbyterian colleges, like Princeton, had specific denominational agendas.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Food: Avoiding the Acropolis Museum

While everyone else is obsessing over the opening of the Acropolis Museum, I turn my attention to another touristic matter, Greek food. Satellite TV, a staple of every immigrant home, has brought low-end pop culture inside every Greek American living room. The cast of characters includes Vefa Alexiadou (left), the culinary consultant in Antenna's morning show, Πρωινός Καφές (Morning Coffee). Back in 2005, Phaidon Press published an English translation of the classic 1950 Italian cookbook, Il cuchiaio d'argento. The marketing idea behind The Silver Spoon was to introduce English-speaking audiences to contemporary cookbooks used by native households. In May 2009, Phaidon hoped to make the same impact with Greek cuisine by publishing Alexiadou's Vefa's Kitchen. Friends that are expert in Italian cooking swear by the Silver Spoon; I have only tried the classic 1960s recipe for vodka-tuna pasta sauce. I hope that Vefa's Kitchen has the same impact as the Silver Spoon. See some earlier thoughts on Greek cookbooks, Mediterranean Cooking (Aug. 20, 2008)

While I'm a great supporter of culinary fusion and experimentation, I must air some complaints about a dessert variation I had in Greece. Loukoumades (fried dough balls soaked in honey and cinnamon) is a well known Turkish/Greek/Arabic dessert. Kamena Vourla, a summer resort town, is famous for its loukoumades. My sister, brother-in-law, nephew, niece and I stopped at Kamena Vourla this summer on our way back from visiting relatives in Lamia. Evoking our childhood memories, my sister and I insisted on having some loukoumades. On the menu, we noticed a variation of chocolate-covered loukoumades. My sweet-toothed 5-year-old niece was thrilled by the combination as was my Swedish brother-in-law, who argued that anything covered by chocolate must be an improvement to the original. My sister and I stuck to the traditional version. Once our order appeared, we realized that the chocolate lovers had a plate of loukoumades smeared with Nutella. They didn't complain. I had a try and found the combination deeply unacceptable. It was like shoving Vienna into Istanbul. The next weekend, I found myself on an archaeological project in Dilessi, where I was informed that the chocolate loukoumades had made an appearance there, too. The American students (who had never tried loukoumades before), moreover, were fond of the chocolated fare. As much as I support fusion and taste combinations (see Peasant Food Fusion posting), I must resist this innovation. My brother-in-law thinks that my sister and I are forever imprisoned inside our childhood memories of pure loukoumades. To a certain extent, he is right. Nevertheless, some combinations should be rejected despite their popularity. Although I would never endorse any kind of culinary essentialism mandated by a foodie police, I like to set a few firm limits: no chocolate should interfere with honey-dripped loukoumades.

"Behold the Greek Nacho," Mark Bittman's Minimalist column in today's New York Times, rekindled the militant state of mind I first noticed in Kamena Vourla. First, I do not abhor nachos the way that Bittman does (watch related video), and second, I find his recipe totally silly. Call it some ad hoc Californian concoction, and I might eat it. But call it "Greek" and I'll revolt. I have clipped the recipe and will certainly try it.

I cannot leave the topic of Greek food without pointing out two discoveries from my trip to Greece, a bookstore and a newspaper dedicated to culinary matters. The bookstore is called Chef in Love and is located on Em. Benaki 17, Athens; it holds the largest selection of Greek cook books I have ever seen. I was particularly intrigued by a selection of monastic cookbooks, including Τα μήλα του μάγειρα: Παράδοση της μονηστηριακής τράπεζας, 4th ed. (Indiktos, 2009). The new monthly culinary newspaper is called
I Cook Greek. Free copies are available in major bookstores and on line. Last night, I tried out a stuffed tomatoes recipe, which turned out OK but was not as good as the recipe in my benchmark, Diane Kochilas' The Food and Wines of Greece (1990). Although not available in English, the newspaper has interesting and unexpected articles. My favorite is, "Τα γλυκά των 70ς" (May 2009, pp. 14-15), where Christina Tsamoura decodes the complex semiotics of Greek sweets in the 1970s. This was a golden decade of Greek desserts from a fusion perspective. Social events as simple as name days involved negotiating a whole mess of pressures, old and new, Greek and non-Greek, high and low, urban and suburban. American desserts were caught in a similar maelstrom of rapid modernization in the 70s, but Greece was under additional pressures springing from nearby European capitals. Although it embraced laxities of comfort, the Athenian middle class retained some formalities, such as always bringing sweets to house visits. These old bourgeois traditions, interestingly enough, were rather new for many new Athenians. Remember, the city's population boomed in the 70s, while "Paris of the Balkans" (as Athens was described in the 30s) became transformed into a concrete nightmare.

Perhaps, I write about food because I'm compulsively avoiding the hype over the New Acropolis Museum that opened its doors last Saturday. Christopher Hitchens, "A Home for the Marbles" (New York Times op-ed, June 19, 2009) and "The Lovely Stones," (Vanity Fair, July 2009, pp. 44-47) are typical in the media's obsession over the Elgin marbles. Bernard Tschumi's building needs to be considered in its own right. But more importantly, it needs to be related to Tschumi's architectural corpus and the fiasco surrounding the architectural competition(s) over the last 19 years. If nothing else, a Tschumi building in Greece should elevate theoretical discourse to the altitudes of Foucault and Deleuze. Tschumi is meaningless without the theoretical armature, see Architecture and Disjunction (New York, 1996). Shouldn't Deconstructivism annul the banalities of "patrimony"?

The museum competition(s) took many turns. Tracing the consecutive victories and annulments over the last two decades tells an interesting story about architecture and politics in Greece.
Calatrava's Olympic stadium was an equally botched up job. On the occasion of the momentous opening, I've pulled out the journal Tefchos 5 (1991) that documents the results of the first competition in 1990. Articles such as "The 'Landscape' of an Architectural Competition" by Yorgos Simeforidis illustrate Greek architectural culture at its highest. Tschumi's museum is definitely an interesting building, but general readers might never know why. Hitchens certainly does not understand it. In all fairness, I have not been inside the building; I've only seen the exterior. For the time being, I should just stick to my area of LEAST expertise, cooking.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bowie's Philadelphia Sound

Much of 1980s New Wave (ABC, Duran Duran, Thompson Twins, Spandau Ballet, Culture Club, etc.) has an orchestral soulful sound. These "New Romantics" reclaimed the grandeur of Swing from the syncopation of Disco. The city of Philadelphia played a minor role in New Wave with figures like Hall and Oates (who met at Temple) and the Hooters (who met at Penn). A local music scene thrived in the late 80s and 90s, although many bands, like the Johnsons, Scram and the Dead Milkmen, received limited national attention.

Philadelphia is responsible for the origins of New Wave's grand sound by means of an earlier and lesser known avenue, David Bowie's 1975 album Young Americans. On August 11, 1974, Bowie spent a week in Philadelphia, recording Young Americans at the Sigma Sound Studios on 212 N. 12th Street. It is here that Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff created what is known as Philadelphia soul or the Philadelphia sound (Bowie called it "plastic soul"). Gamble and Huff had started the Philadelphia International Records label only three years before Bowie's visit. Y0ung Americans was an important point of departure from Bowie's earlier rock persona in Ziggy Stardust (1972), or Diamond Dogs (1974). In Philadelphia, therefore, David Bowie pursued one of his many incarnations as a spiritually black artist. And it is here that he met Puerto Rican guitarist Carlos Alomar, who became an integral member of Bowie's band. Young Americans also features back up vocals by Luther Vandross and includes the song Fame, co-written with John Lennon, which became Bowie's first American hit.

I doubt that 1980s New Wave (or New Pop) was directly inspired by Philadelphia International Records. Its point of departure is David Bowie's 1975 album, which had already reconfigured the elements of the Philadelphia sound. A year after the release of Young Americans, David Bowie turned a new chapter in his musical career by moving to Berlin with Iggy Pop. The short relationship with Philadelphia was hence quickly overshadowed by a three-year residence in Berlin. The Berlin trilogy (Low, Heroes, Lodger) incorporated Brian Eno's electronic experimentation into the Philadelphia foundations.

Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008 and an excellent 4-CD box set was released on the occasion, Love Train: the Sound of Philadelphia (Sony Legacy). Terry Gross interviewed Gamble and Huff in "Riding Philly's 'Love Train' with Gamble and Huff" (NPR, Nov. 26, 2008, replayed May 22, 2009). On May 19, 2009, Gamble and Huff received BMI's Icon Award.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: A new book explores Bowie's creative three-years in Berlin, see Thomas Jerome Seabrook, Bowie in Berlin: A New Career in a New Town (London, 2008). For the Philadelphia episode, see also Christopher Sandford, Bowie: Loving the Alien (New York, 1996), p. 128. The story of the Philadelphia sound is chronicled in, John A. Jackson, A House on Fire: The Rise and Fall of Philadelphia Soul (New York, 2004).

Saturday, June 20, 2009

My Philadelphia: Joyce, Kalfus, Saffron

I revel in the first few pages of Ulysses, tracing Stephen Dedalus's and stately, plump Buck Mulligan's ascents/descents in Martello Tower. The structure belongs to a series of defenses built to withstand a Napoleonic invasion, and it currently houses a Joyce museum. Last weekend, I surveyed a 15th century tower in Boeotia, so towers are on my mind. Mulligan wipes the sacramental shaving razor on Stephen's noserag and sees a snotgreen art color reflected in the snotgreen sea (the Homeric wine-dark). At one moment, Mulligan leaves the parapet and descends the stair; his song disappears in the bowels of the structure. Stephen, alone now, watches the sea, "Woodshadows floated silently by through the morning peace from stairhead seaward where he gazed." The morning's slivers of light make the sea resonate with w's, "wavewhite, wedded words shimmering on the dim tide," and Stephen enters a reverie over his mother's recent deathbed. As we have already learned, Stephen refused to kneel at his mother's deathbed, declaring his rejection of Catholic rite and dishonoring his mother. In the guilt-induced reverie, Stephen sees the objects of his mother's youth, "her secrets: objects in the locked drawer," toys and projected memories--birdcage, pantomime, featherfans, dancecards powdered with musk, amber beads. The juxtaposition of architectural vantage (in-out, up-down Martello Tower), the landscape (the snotgreen sea) and objects (mother's secret toys) make Ulysses a most instructive exercise in archaeology, leaving aside the literary density (Hamlet, Odyssey, Yeats).

As Stephen leans over the parapet and sees "the mailboat clearing the harbourmouth," I hear my own mailwoman at the door. Examining the contents of my mailbox, I find the new issue of DWELL magazine, to which I subscribed last year but now read with disinterest. I practically jumped out of my seat when I saw this issues special feature on Philadelphia, an interview by Ken Kalfus (left). For most of the last six years, I had been living in Clemson, South Carolina, where I taught architectural history. Before that, Philadelphia was home, to which I returned to take care of a sickly mother (but unlike Stephen, I knelt). Inga Saffron's Skyline Online became my remote link to the Philadelphia skyline, my guide through architectural changes and controversies. Incidentally, I learned of Saffron only after seeing a reading of Ulysses at the Rosenbach Bloomsday celebrations a few years ago.

Last academic year, my college adviser gave a lecture at Clemson University and over dinner he noted the lack of Philadelphia literature. I had just started blogging and posted some thoughts. In Philadelphia Literature Question Mark, I projected a Philadelphia Ulysses on Kalfus and Saffron. Returning to DWELL's article "Ken Kalfus's Philadelphia" (July/August 2009, pp. 70-76), I marvel at Kalfus' brillian
t suggestion, to post Ulysses on the PECO Building. The Philadelphia Electric Company Building is a 1970 Miesian skyscraper with a twist, a scrolling text at its top floors. For 35-some-years, the PECO Building was the only skyscraper towering over the Schuylkill River. It's an attractive black box with quotations of the celebrated PSFS Building (with its stationary text). I love its textual directives that change every night. It manifests a confidence in architectural minimalism and, no less, in the irrefutable power of words. The skyscraper announced facts. In 2005, the PECO Building lost its directive prominence when Cesar Pelli's Cira Centre rose on the other side of the River (a lovely building, the only Pelli project I admire). Unlike its modernist neighbor, this postmodernist signboard lacks prescriptive content. Every night it changes its skin by projecting different light compositions. The message is graphically vague and targeted, perhaps, to Richard Florida's creative class.

Kalfus' Ulyssean appreciation of Philadelphia runs through the DWELL interview; it includes an iconoclastic disregard for the PSFS landmark, a transient appreciation of 30th Street Station (Louis Kahn encouraged all his clients to come to Philadelphia only by train), and also a rare nod to Van Pelt Library (left). Very few people would admit this in public, but Van Pelt is a magical place. For me, it's the place where I discovered Ulysses. As Kalfus points out, it is open stacks and open to the public. Penn's library is one of the largest in the United States (ranking fourth, if I remember correctly). Known as "the book barn," Van Pelt has been criticized as generically modern. Designed in 1962 by the same firm of the PECO Building (Harbeson, Hough, Livingston & Larson), it provides an expansive open interior, a rational city of books. One of my favorite activities used to be losing myself, like a flaneur, in its pastel-colored metal shelves and discovering unexpected pieces of knowledge. I have friends who cultivated entire love affairs in the building. Back in the 1980s, when Van Pelt had a smoking section, the greatest cultural exchange between smoking Eurotrash (like myself) and American sophisticates (or wannabe's on both accounts) took place. As much as the university tries to keep up with Barnes & Noble, Marks' cafe will never replicate the ad hoc environment of the old smoking section.

I left Philadelphia in 2003, when I joined Clemson's faculty. Sporadic maternal visits, funerals, weddings and baptisms supplemented with the imaginative reflections of Kalfus/Saffron have turned my Dublin into a place more thought-provoking than when I had left it. The PECO Building could be Martello Tower. The very moment I received DWELL in the mail, Saffron commented on my blog posting. How more magical could blogging be? In September, I'll be returning to the Philadelphia area, starting a new academic position at Franklin and Marshall. The prodigal son is thrilled to return physically and intellectually. Joyce, Kalfus and Saffron have added to the city in innumerable ways. I cannot wait to discover Lancaster, rediscover Philadelphia and explore intersections between architecture, archaeology, literature and journalism. I have great hopes in Franklin and Marshall's Philadelphia Alumni Writers House, which I thoroughly enjoyed during my interview.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ulysses Archaeology

June 16th is Bloomsday, a day in 1904 Dublin that forms the subject of Ulysses by James Joyce. Philadelphia's Rosenbach Library and Museum, home of a Ulysses manuscript, celebrates every year with a public reading. Nothing can be better than a Spring day in Center City listening to readers like Ken Kalfus and his wife Inga Saffron (architectural critic of the Philadelphia Inquirer and bloger Skyline Online) reading from Ulysses. Even at the risks of sounding pompous, Ulysses is one of my favorite books. In its last issue, the rock magazine SPIN placed derision on "People who get excited for Bloomsday. [They] Are asking to be beaten up" (June 2009, p. 34). Ironically, SPIN magazine's feature article is on Jack White's new band, the Dead Weather. I cannot think of a more Joycean figure in contemporary music than Jack White. But that's another story. The editors of SPIN need to re-read rock historian Greil Marcus' Lipstick Traces (1989), where James Joyce is no stranger.

This year, I celebrate Bloomsday through archaeology. I follow the footsteps of Hugh Kenner
, who first revealed how the archaeology of Greece deflated the fantasy that western culture had created from literary epics (The Pound Era, Berkeley, 1971, pp. 44-49). Archaeology turned attention to the quotidian banalities, trash, chaos, rubble walls. Both Ezra Pound and Joyce were followers of this discipline, which heavily contributed to their revolutionary vision. Ulysses is difficult to read because Joyce does not take for granted the subjective voice. Archaeology is similarly irrational because cultural authorship is not evident in material culture. Our data is the day-to-day, the stinking parts of life, the smell of liver cooked by Leopold Bloom.

This Bloomsday, I enjoyed Colum McCann's editorial describing his personal relationship to Ulysses, "But Always Meeting Ourselves," New York Times (June 16, 2009), p. A19.
He quotes Vladimir Nabokov on the purpose of writing: "to portray ordinary objects as they will be reflected in the kindly mirrors of future times; to find in the objects around us the fragrant tenderness that only posterity will discern and appreciate in far-off times when every trifle of our plain everyday life will become exquisite and festive in its own right: the times when a man who might pu on the most ordinary jacket of today will be dressed up for an elegant masquerade."

If good writing elevates the stinking day-to-day, good archaeology discovers its fragrance. Ulysses should be mandatory archaeological reading. I celebrate this Bloomsbury by reading 2 pages of Ulysses every day for the rest of the year, until Bloomsday 2010.

Monday, June 15, 2009

An Old Friend Leica

Although a practical science at heart, surveying is also a poetic enterprise. In the 1980s, archaeologists began to use EDMs, or electronic distance measuring theodolites. Traditional surveyors were horrified to see a new generation of computer users clicking points away without understanding the trigonometric fundamental of surveying. I learned my surveying in the summer of '92 on a 19th century transit up on the top of a Peloponnesean mountain. A year later, I learned how to use an EDM Total Station as an intern at the Corinth Computer Project. Surveying architectural ruins and archaeological landscapes has given me a fantastic education across the Mediterranean. The Leica theodolite has been a loyal friend through the years.

Last weekend, the Eastern Boeotia Archaeological Project (EBAP) asked me to assist in setting up their surveying instrument. EBAP is an intensive regional survey going into its third season. Looking ahead into geophysical studies and excavation, the project directors recently acquired a new theodolite, a Leica TCR 407. Bryan Burns (above), Camilla MacKay and I put our heads together and explored the tool's potential. After figuring out the command procedures (each machine has its idiosyncrasies), we set up pins and surveyed parts of the ancient and medieval acropolis of Elaion. My personal interests lie in Elaion's two medieval towers, one of which sits on the acropolis. MacKay, who has analyzed the site's medieval pottery, found no evidence for occupation before the 15th century. Once assumed to be a Frankish tower, the evidence at Elaion points to an Ottoman date instead. See EBAP's 2007 field report here. Camilla and I surveyed the tower's foundations and experimented with some digital photogrammetry (using ArcGIS's georeferencing tool).

Using EBAP's Leica felt like reconnecting with an old friend. The instrument's distinctive beeps, its pale green color, the frustrating DOS command system, the bright red hard case, and even the yellow raincoat transported me to the mid-1980s, when the machine was first designed. Although intended to produce hard facts--x, y, z coordinates--the Leica theodolite elicits an entire aesthetic universe reminiscent of its contemporary New Wave music--Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Heaven 17, etc. As a machine, it has visually dominated archaeology throughout the world (see example from Iron Age excavation in Sweden here). The Leica transit has added technological flair to an 18th-century practice. EDMs emit a laser beam which is reflected back through a prism. The Total Station calculates the time of the laser's flight and deduces distance. The laser technology has removed surveying from the domain of trigonometric functions. Strangely enough, it has also absolved the surveyor from some burdens of responsibility. The archaeological user is not asked to provide a margin of error or close the angles. The Total Station's precision, in other words, is often confused with accuracy. As a result, it is a lighthearted instrument once you understand how it works. In its daily operations, EDMs demand a choreography of buttons and commands. When the reflector is sighted and the laser is sent, the instrument emits a beautifully cerebral sound like the clicking of SLR camera mirrors.

For a detailed history of the Leitz company and its transition into Leica, see Leica Heerburgg im Wandel der Zeit (1996). The TC series tachymeter was developed in 1988.
I cannot help but feel sentimenatl about the Leica EDM. Using it once again on the acropolis of a Boeotian town transported me into the universe of synthesizers and drum machines, the musical aesthetics of the '80s. The Leica's sleekness, the lack of userfriendly interface (pre-Windows) and the beauty of its primary elements invokes the world of Brian Eno. Bill Caraher wrote about similar experiences and DIY punk aesthetics while trying to crack a new GPS surveying instrument this summer in Cyprus, see Archaeology, Technology, and Who is the Punk Archaeologist Now? I am struck by the minimalist technological eclecticism of the '80s Leica. I think archaeology and its surveying instruments have profoun aesthetic manifestations. I will never forget a comment that my surveying mentor made one evening in the Peloponnese. His reason for branching out into digital surveying had to do with listening to John Cage's computer-generated music. The world of Cage, Merce Cunningham, Pop Art and Black Mountain College fed the imagination of an archaeological pioneer and the generation before me. In turn, my surveying world is inspired by New Wave and No Wave, the Cure and Sonic Youth. After all, '80s music was playing on the Walkman while clicking the Leica.

One more reason to be sentimenatl about the Leica has to do with its slow phasing out. GPS surveying (especially differential GPS) is displacing Total Stations. The Leica served an interesting role of connecting the 1920s (Weimar Republic, Bertrold Brecht, New Objectivity) with the 1980s, just as David Bowie, Bauhaus, Joy Division, Nick Cave and Tom Waits connected musical traditions. In the 1990s, Leica overlapped with GPS, but GPS embodied an entirely different world: smart bombs, selective availability, Persian Gulf, Desert Storm, video games, Al Gore and corporate navigation. As GPS is winning the battle over EDM, it also eclipses the Leica's aesthetics that made the 1980s a romantic reflection of the 1920s. Surveying truly connects archaeologists with minimalist avant gardes.

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States