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In Search of Ghosts: Memorial Series


My long-term research as Senior Tutor (Research) at the Royal College of Art explores the cultural dynamics and history of the house, its integrated environments, and the people who lived in them. Drawing on archaeological theory, I work within an expanded field practice contextualised through ancient houses and ancient practices.


The ‘Pompeii Memorial’ series of expanded painting references my fieldwork in the ancient dwellings of the Pompeii Archaeological site. Using ‘spectral ethnography’ as a methodology to explore a ‘hauntology’ (Derrida, 1994) left by previous generations, the house acts as a repository of material culture and interface between home, beliefs, values, customs and non-human assemblages. Simulating architecture and associated Roman wall paintings, Pompeii Memorial journeys in search of ghosts by replicating the accumulation of cultural time buried under the 79 AD eruption of Vesuvius to be exhumed in these artworks through experimental archaeology and new materialist approaches. Other memorial work in my recent practice draws on the museum archives of the Weald & Downland Living Museum, a 19th century London house and ancient burial practices. Here the materials of the house, its lineage of inhabitants, customs and environmental forces are seen as equally active participants in the world and part of a network distributed across humans and non-humans.


My practice engages with the spaces of the home, not just as a physical entities, but as documents, archives and biographies that narrate lived experience embedded and recorded in the fabric of architecture. Interested in the ways that ideas of the present have come from past contexts, Young considers the people who occupy/ied ancient spaces in recognition that what is happening now is a result of what has come before. The overall aim of my research is to answer the following: How can vernacular principles, historic houses and ancient ways of life inform the way we live now?


My ongoing series of expanded paintings respond to archaeological excavations in posthuman terms through the Actor-Network-Metaphor philosophy proposed by Bruno Latour. These relational approaches to the afterlives of Pompeii invoke the Underworld of entangled non-linear time and theorise the nature of human existence as the outcome of relationships between people, things and environments across time.


About The Lararium Project


‘The Lararium Project’ is a recent research project undertaken in 2023, which can be visited at Butser Ancient Farm, a museum of experimental archaeology in Hampshire. The project saw the design and installation of a new lararium (a shrine to the household gods) for Butser’s Roman Villa. Simultaneously a working construct of the past and a reimagined household shrine for the present, the goddess Ceres replaces the Genius (the male head of the house) in dedication to the female deity of the harvest in reference to the farming role of Butser as a haven for wildlife, rare breed animals and endangered crops. The lararium is richly painted and constructed to replicate a miniature temple simulating an interface between the divine, the spirit world, familial ancestors, place and householders through the symbolic imagery and traditions of veneration. Images of snakes adorn the surfaces since they were seen as protective spirits of the house during Roman times and closely associated with household shrines.


The lararium opened during Chichester Roman Week when the Butser IX Roman Legion were in residence at the museum re-enacting living history to demonstrate what life would have been like in Roman Britain. As a permanent fixture of Butser Ancient Farm’s Roman Villa the lararium continues to be used for education and re-enactments gaining further insight into religious practices and associated rituals, and to explore the cultural dynamics of the Roman home.

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