In The Dig Dan Stockholm adopts the role of a creative archaeologist, utilizing methods of excavation, preservation and display in the creation of several new works. The Dig speculates on how we tend to view history as a straight line that leads from the past directly to us. In archaeology, we dig to uncover ourselves, but is it us that we find, or were we someone else?
Earth remembers everything. Layers upon layer of dirt record the passage of time like the concentric circles of a tree. Dan Stockholm departs from this consideration of a layered consciousness to produce work that is generative in its nature. Born out of previous series, his most recent body of work testifies to a continued interest for earth’s rich semiotic field – a material that prior to being fired into a fixed and fragile object is endlessly flexible and malleable. In his handling of clay, Stockholm yields new considerations of our relationship to the ground below us and to the sky above.
Stockholm digs. In his new series Terra Form he makes use of this method used in archaeology, he terraforms the excavated space as a record of his initial performative action. In his process of creation – defined by the act of preservation – the artist inverts the image by casting directly into the ground and presents the negative form created from his original gesture.
Metaphorically, the process of digging functions as a way to go back in time. He is drawn to objects found in the ground as markers of ancient civilizations. These objects are a reminder of how our species used to be more in sync with the cosmos and how we used to live more closely to the ground below. Before we began covering it with rigid asphalt, before we started ascending into increasingly tall buildings, we used to dirty our feet and hands in the ground as an auspicious ritual of cultivation. The ground was sacred because we understood that it fed us. Nowadays, the earth suggests little more than the sinister pledge of a final destination.
His process of creation is a way to document and draw attention to our bodies. There is something metaphysical in creating an imprint of the body that points to a togetherness with nature and to consciousness through and within matter. In this way, his work is profoundly spiritual. That is perhaps best conjured through the series Vessels in which Stockholm fossilizes the movements of the body as he works with clay - a material capturing and remembering every step of his process.
Dan Stockholm’s work is about the transformation of his materials of predilection, earth, clay and plaster into powerful apparatuses of transmission and reception. Stockholm’s practice oscillates between the desire to conceal and disclose. His work shifts between inside and outside, negative and positive spaces while pointing simultaneously to natural occurrences and human intervention, to life and death, to the past and the future. Stockholm (re)constructs a visual landscape that is site-specific and yet one with the planet and its histories – creating a human trace that is at once intimate and resolutely universal.