Patrick Nagatani

Excavations (1995-2001)
ASG 2001


BMW, Chetro Ketl Kiva, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, U.S.A., 1997

In Excavations Nagatani extends the sets to scientific analysis in which time loops back on itself and to the fabrication of the presentation and interpretation of scientific data, artifacts and evidence as an exhibition.

Excavations is an intriguing series of Ilfochrome and silver print photographs that explore the thin line between reality and illusion, and the ways in which photography creates, recreates, or supports a particular history. 

Bentley, Stonehenge, Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, England, 1987

Ryoichi's Journal: Showa 60, July 13, U.S.A., Tucson, 1999

“The Nagatani / Ryoichi Excavation project is built around a narrative that offers an account of excavations undertaken by an enigmatic Japanese archaeologist, Ryoichi. In 1985, Ryoichi and his team received a set of maps which were interpreted as pointing to sites scattered throughout the world. The sites were in areas with significant archaeological or historical remains - Chaco Canyon, Herculaneum, Stonehenge - or with monuments to our own technological age - The Very Large Array, Kitt Peak National Observatory. The archaeologists spent the next fifteen years secretly excavating the sites excavated by Ryoichi's team, I present evidence of an alternative past, one in which a Jaguar automobile was ceremoniously buried within the foundations of the Observatory at Chichen Itza in the Yucatan, and a Ferrari emerges from a volcanic shroud at Herculaneum. My field photographs are the only record of Ryoichi's excavation campaign that remains.

My photographs of Ryoichi's excavations present a temporal paradox - evidence of an automobile culture which seems to parallel that of our own twentieth century, but found in widely disparate places and times. I follow Ryoichi's single-minded, almost obsessive campaign until the team confronts the last site. We read and come to know "deep history" - past before written record - from archaeological sequences read as text. The maps, the site plans, the careful record of successive layers of habitation - photographed, these elements of archaeological evidence insist on their truthfulness as scientific discourse and photographic record. I layer the elements we accept as scientific record to construct an alternate reading of the past, and alternative stratigraphy of truth and illusion. With this project I hope to challenge us to examine the ways in which photography creates, recreates, or supports a particular history. I want to consider what we accept as evidence and why. I hope to orchestrate our understanding of the archaeologists' quest and suggest that it may have meaning for our own approach to the unknown.

Ford Explorer, Kitt Peak National Observatory, Quinian Mts., AZ, U.S.A., 1993

This project expresses my interest in testing the realities that can exist within the realm of photography and physical documentation. I am interested in how the photograph is also recognized less as a window on the "real," and far more as a malleable picture space - constructed and contrived for the purpose of examining representation rather than reality. I am interested in the potential of photography to tell a story.”

In this elaborate fictional narrative and the accompanying Ilfochrome and silver print photographs, Nagatani examines photography's role in documenting "history," as well as our willingness to believe what we see.

Aston Martin, Hazor, Isarel, 1990

Infiniti, Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico, U.S.A., 1996

BMW Roadster, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, 1987

Cadillac Eldorado, Sandy Point Site, Albuquerque Inter. Sunport, NM, USA, 1996

Volvo, Near Newgrange Tumulus, Slane, County Meath, Ireland, 1987

Lamborghini, Otztaler Alps, Italy. 1989

Cadillac Fleetwood, Near Messak Settafet, Sahara, Libya, 1991

Ferrari, Herculaneum, Italy, 1989

Ford Coupe, Hall Farm Near Riverside Observatory, Johnson County, IA, USA, 1992

Ford Woody, Near Entrance To Lascaux Cave, Dordogne, France, 1994

Jaguar XKE, Jantar Mantar, Jai Singh Observatory, Jaipur, India, 1988<

Jeep Cherokee, Shahr-I Sokhta, Seistan, Iran, 1990

Lincoln Continental, Ukok Plateau, Siberian Altai, Russia, 1995

Mercedes, Grand Canyon, Arizona, U.S.A., 1994

Mercedes, Near Nagi Gompa, Nepal, 1995

Toyota, Manzanar, Inyo County, California, U.S.A., 1993

Ryoichi's Journal: Uluru Rock, Australia, May 17, 1999, 2001

Ryoichi's Flask And Journal, 2001

Portraits of Ryoichi Yoshimura and Ryoichi, 1999

Volkswagen 'Beetles', Xi'an, Necropolis Of Mt. Li', Shanxi Province, China, 1988