”A Door at Sandby Borg” is the title of a film by musician and music archaeologist Frances Gill. Frances works with ideas which are concerned with the body and all of its senses and emotions, in processes both in art and archaeology. In this sketch, the images become part of her project connected to Sandby ringfort on Öland in Sweden. The concept of a door standing in the landscape over an ancient threshold attempts to bring an aspect of the historical past into the present, making theatrical reference to a real archaeological feature. The fact that this ancient threshold once played a part in the scene of a massacre is a concept she is using through which to address questions we have in the present about the subject of mass murder in relation to reconciliation and redemption. How we try to understand why such things happen whilst shielding ourselves, and especially children, from the horrors, is her main dilemma. In this piece she is particularly working with ideas about distortion.
In a previous performance, artist Helle Kvamme had dressed as a naked figure with a hood over her head. The hood had been the focus of Helle’s performance piece. This had been presented at the Experimental Cultural Heritage conference on Öland in the autumn of 2015. Frances’s idea was to have Helle’s character make a guest appearance in “A Door at Sandby Borg”. Frances also invited archaeologist Ludvig Papmehl-Dufay to be part of the improvisation round the door. Her idea was to have two characters in this improvisation to impose upon the piece the two faces of Experimental Cultural Heritage, one being ‘Art’ and the other being ‘Archaeology’. In this way a personification of art and a personification of archaeology meet at the door. In Frances’s film, her music and images are distorted and Helle’s character can be perceived as ominous and menacing. However, the final images in her film are not distorted, as she aims to portray the hope in which the disciplines of archaeology and art can come together and find some of the answers to many questions about our changing world and how we will fare in it in the future. There is a reference to gender in the personifications but this was rather more consequential than intended although relevant in a number of guises and for discussion.
It is Frances’s intention to develop this work in a number of directions, one being to get children involved in history through working with sound and music within archaeological contexts. Another is to arrange the music from this sketch for string orchestra as a movement in a piece of music about Sandby ringfort with other movements using different themes. This work is all tied together in working processes which use aspects of the past in the present in artistic ways which are particularly connected to sound and music. This is in relation to ongoing work by various working groups involved with developing Experimental Cultural Heritage as a research area.