Last of the Free BY Nick Ross
“We are the last people on earth, and the last to be free: our very remoteness in a land known only to rumour has protected us up till this day. Today the furthest bounds of Britain lie open—and everything unknown is given an inflated worth. But now there is no people beyond us, nothing but tides and rocks and, more deadly than these, the Romans.” Caledonian leader Calgacus speaking to his troops before meeting the Roman legions at the battle of Mons Graupius AD 84 – From Tacitus’ Agricola, AD 89 Roman historical texts have shaped our understanding of the civilisations which lay beyond the furthest reaches of the Roman Empire. Since the Roman Empire was the dominant force in Europe at the time, many neighboring cultures were written about in ways which were politically in favour of the Roman conquests. Such biased reporting has helped create historically inaccurate depictions of these people and cultures, that still persist today. Using the Caledonian’s – a confederacy of indigenous people in what is now Scotland, during the height of the Roman Empire – as an example, the project is a collection of objects that portray the Caledonian’s as seen through the Roman Empire’s eyes. The objects presented carry hints of the Caledonian culture, yet contain a certain ‘Romanised’ aesthetic, as comment on the Roman influence on our understanding of these people and time period. The project plays with our needs to have history, as history always locates us within a certain setting. We don’t really care if it’s real or fake history, as long as it answers our need to belong to a specific place or culture. By mixing storytelling with physical objects, it questions our current situation in which cultures are sacred, or that national identities are static and thus must be protected from outside influences.