Antietam – Intent at Burnside Bridge

We have come here to sense (and live briefly) the past that remains of this place, those human memories that still linger.  It’s difficult.  There are so many who want to speak, and even more of those who talk about these presences.  Hopefully, we locate ourselves far below the recording instruments of the “ghost hunting” acts on the surface above us.  Spatially, these “hunters” are close.  Conceptually (and humanly), we are distinct from them, located in another cultural reality.  We have to be!  We must approach this place from the perspective of “belonging”, not provoking.

For moments of contemporary time, this is a “hauntscape”.  Space and reality unfolds here, and is symmetrical.  We, all of us, are connected by strands of stories, military intent, and highly emotional experiences.  We must resonate with what happened here, what was felt, what was lost, and what remains.  We must sense how these men thought, in and waiting for combat.  Otherwise, we will not be able to help them remember.  Those memories will remain out of reach, except for an occasional measured anomaly.  That is a ghost hunting reveal, not ours.  That record is not what’s really here, deep down.  There, at that deeper surface, it’s more human, cultural, and familiar.  We must approach them from the perspective of the personal, the contextual, and the intimate.  Our goal is not to unearth how they died, but how they lived, and what they sensed as they fought among the trees, came up that deadly road, and crossed that bridge, finally!

We must act with care, with honesty, and foremost ethics.  Once we begin to move, they will too, but not always in the same direction.  Their intentions will be revealed by traces, remnants of other cultural worlds, other expressions of value, emotion, and behavior, all occurring within landscape realities that we have never seen or felt (except through their manifestations to us).

These manifestations will become the elements of an archaeology of the mind, phantoms embedded deep inside past memories.  There are also physical remains that are unearthed in these “ghost excavations”.  These become voices, tactile sensations, odors, background noise, shadows, and movements in the woods.  These sensory elements can become personal, directed at specific individuals, not everyone.  In this way what one smells, another hears, and still another senses.  We are here to record this…and more.  We are prepared for the immediate field reveal.

This is a place, and spaces within, that become culturally present through our participatory acts.  These acts are not complete repetitions of past ones.  That is not possible.  We are not here to die or suffer injury, even “wound” our egos.  We are not here to feel that pain.  We are here to document the remains they allow us to perceive and record.

What we initiate in these “ghost excavations” is something new because it is happening in actuality, not the past.  We are recovering new pathways in the topography of the hauntscape.

The “ghost excavation” that follows is a focused act to return to where we haven’t been in person.  In this field, we can unearth some other sense of the past that may awaken memories of older cultural memory practices.  This is what happens in a “ghost excavation”…….