Paula Metallo | Dig History
Paula Metallo is an Italian American contemporary artist. Born in Syracuse, New York and lives in the Marche Region of Italy.
Italian American, artist, contemporary artist, art, contemporary art, collage, installation, Coldigioco, holes, meet, look twice, rorschach, cover uncover, art and science, take and give, simmetry, drawings
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2020-21 Dig History


BIG HISTORY is an academic discipline and an interdisciplinary approach to teaching, which inspects history from the Big Bang to the Present. It examines long time frames based on combining numerous branches of knowledge from the sciences and the humanities, and explores human existence in the context of this bigger picture.
A Big history approach allows us to investigate cause-and-effect relations, so that we may regard our past, describe our present, and imagine our future.


This research intends a Big History investigation of digging.
An attempt to dig into the deep past, dig up our present dirt, and imagine what shallow and deep changes could mean in relation to the hole we have been digging ourselves in.
I study the “universe digging” of craters and holes, the digging into why and how life began on Earth, the archeological dig as time read backwards and each geological sediment, a sentence on a page. I want to illustrate how humans drill, dig, and mine, and how we quickly take what geology took millions of years to make.
I want to trace the ways we cover the unsightly, the opposite of the original idea to bury, so to keep in mind. To inquire why we forget how much we took, and where we put it, and how (important it is) to put it back.
And of course I am interested in drawing on poetic contemplations about digging.


These “shovels” are some examples of the work in progress.
Shovels- shrink Dink plastic, mixed media and wooden chopsticks, 18 x 8 cm each.

  • A Black Hole.
    A black hole is a region of space time where gravity is so strong that nothing - no particles or even electromagnetic radiation such as light can escape from it. The theory of general relativity predicts that a sufficiently compact mass can deform space time to form a black hole.

  • Mars: Hellas Planitia.
    Impact craters, universe digging: Hellas Planitia, on Mars is one of the largest visible impact craters in the Solar System. The basin floor is about 7,152 m (23,465 ft) deep, and extends about 2,300 km (1,400 mi) east to west. It is thought to have formed about 3.8 to 4.1 billion years ago.

  • Neolithic shoulder blade shovel 10,000-3,000 B.C.
    The shovel has been used in many cultures throughout the history of mankind.
    Because the shoulder blade resembles the blade of a trowel (a small shovel), the word “scapula” is thought to have come from the Greek “skaptein” meaning to dig.

  • Grime’s Graves.
    Grimes Graves is grassland pockmarked with over 430 prehistoric flint mine pits. It is one of the best places in Britain to see the links between geology and archaeology. The earliest pits were dug as vertical shafts in late Neolithic times, about 4,600 years ago, to reach rich seams of flint nodules.
    The mysterious lunar-like landscape of Grime’s Graves is the legacy of hundreds of years of activity by Neolithic flint miners, to extract the fine quality, jet-black flint from which they fashioned tools, weapons and ceremonial objects.

  • Yu the Great (c. 2123-2025 B.C.).
    Known as “Yu that controls the flood”, was a legendary Emperor in ancient China who was famed for his introduction of flood control, Yu dug a system of irrigation canals which relieved floodwater into fields, as well as spending great effort dredging the riverbeds.

  • Giuseppe Fiorelli, born June 8, 1823, Naples, Italy.
    An archaeologist best known for the “Fiorelli method” that he developed in the 1860’s to make plaster casts of the shape of the space left of bodies that had decomposed under Vesuvio’s volcanic ash of Pompei, in 79 A.D. What Nature entombed in a day, man took 1,700 years to exhume.
    This process gave information about how people had died in the eruption, and what they were doing in their final moments.

  • Kimberly hole: Kimberley, South Africa.
    From 1871 to 1914, 50,000 miners dug this hole with picks and shovels, yielding 2,722 kg of diamonds.
    The hole is 463 m wide and 1,097 m deep.
    It is the biggest hand dug hole in the world along with Jagersfontein and Bultfontein diamond mines, also in South Africa.

  • Trench construction diagram from a 1914 British infantry manual.
    Trench warfare is a type of land warfare using occupied fighting lines largely comprising military dugout systems, in which troops are well-protected from the enemy's small arms fire. Trench warfare lasting for several years and took place on the Western Front in World War I, 1914-1918.
    A man, especially a private soldier was often addressed with: how are you, Digger?

  • Lucy R. Lippard (born April 14, 1937)
    is an American writer, art critic, activist and curator.
    The weft of her text is deeply entwined with Land; Land as place and identity, land as Mother Nature, how land has been imagined, captured and (ab)used. She has been a persistent advocate of digging into and excavating the dirty truths about human’s damage to the earth's surface and how we have eroded the foundation of rock formation, damaged and weakened gradually and insidiously. Her years of hard work contain a mine of information. I dedicate this shovel to her task.

  • Chariot project 1958.
    Project Chariot was an idea by Edward Teller, a 1958 U.S. Atomic Energy Commission proposal to construct an artificial harbor at Cape Thompson on the North Slope of the U.S. state of Alaska by digging holes and burying and detonating a string of nuclear devices. Opposition came from the tiny Inupiat Alaska Native village of Point Hope.
    Material from a nuclear explosion at the Nevada Test Site was transported to the Chariot site in August 1962, used in several experiments, then buried. Thirty years later, low levels of radioactivity at a depth of two feet (60 cm) were found in the burial mound. Outraged residents of the Inupiat village of Point Hope, who had experienced an unusually high rate of cancer deaths, demanded the removal of the contaminated soil, which the government did at its expense.

  • Making Craters - Cinder Lake, Flagstaff, Arizona.
    The Moon's Mare Tranquillitatis, The Sea of Tranquility is a plain of volcanic rock pocked with craters. It was the site that was designated for Apollo 11's Moon landing in 1968. Engineers and scientists in the U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Branch reproduced a 10 acre swatch of Mare Tranquillitatis in Cinder Lake, a volcanic cinder field northeast of Flagstaff, Arizona, for use in Apollo astronaut training and lunar vehicle and equipment testing. They marked out crater locations, planted explosives, and set them off in three waves, digging 143 craters, some up to 10 meters wide. We dug holes on earth in order to study holes on the moon!

  • Breathe a song on Pink Floyd’s 1973 album, The Dark Side of the Moon.
    Songwriters: David Jon Gilmour / Richard Wright / Roger Waters.
    Breathe, breathe in the air
    Don't be afraid to care
    Leave but don't leave me
    Look around, choose your own ground
    For long you live and high you fly
    And smiles you'll give and tears you'll cry
    And all you touch and all you see
    Is all your life will ever be
    Run, rabbit run
    Dig that hole, forget the sun
    And when at last the work is done
    Don't sit down, it's time to dig another one For long you live and high you fly
    But only if you ride the tide
    And balanced on the biggest wave
    You race towards an early grave.

  • The big suck: DAC direct air capture units, 2015.
    The machines suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and pump it into the sedimentary rock formations below. Pumped back where it was taken from. Take and put into the air and putting it back! We dig up ways to undo what we did.

  • Tommy Orange, was a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for his book, There There.
    He is a citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Nations of Oklahoma. The book contemplates a North America where there is no take and give (back) or dig up and put back.
    “You are from a people who took and took and took and took. And from a people taken. You're both and neither. For Native people, cities and towns represent buried ancestral land, glass and concrete and wire and steel, unreturnable covered memory. There is no there there.”

  • The New Yorker August 17, 2020 Article, Dani Kaufman, The Last Stand Wisconsin dairy farmers fate.
    Jerry Volenec: “It’s not the farming I was brought up with. It’s not really even farming anymore. It’s Mining. We’re extracting resources and shipping them away, and they’re not coming back. There’s no cyclical nature to it. It’s a straight line out.” Here is his poem:
    Get Big or Get Out
    I was told to buy a shovel
    So I bought a shovel
    I was told to dig
    So I dug
    What is the hole for, I asked?
    For your neighbor, he has passed
    I was told to keep digging
    So I put my shovel to the task
    A hole for each neighbor
    Until I was the last
    Keep digging I was told
    I looked around and asked
    Who for?
    For yourself I was told
    You are needed no more.

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