Deep Excavation is a performance-installation project that delves deep into the layered histories and architectures of the city in intriguing and captivating ways. Participants are taken on guided tours that experiment with storytelling and cultural artefacts to engage in the city’s contested histories and speculative futures.

The concept for Deep Excavation had its origins in a City Mobilities workshop held in December 2021, where OSCA and The Mill encouraged participants to ‘rethink and reconfigure the city’s infrastructure into other forms and functionalities’. It was within this context that the artists reimagined a multi-storey building site alongside The Mill as an archaeological dig for the so-called Failed Society — a previously unknown attempt at Western society.
Formidable young First Nations artist Shania Richards (Wongutha, Ndagu, Mirning, Noongar, Wirengu, Gubrun, Bulang, Barngarla) flipped the usual colonial narrative by taking on the character of The Archaeologist and Anthropologist, who interprets the site and artefacts, and therefore the history. Meanwhile writer-curator Susan Charlton stepped into the role of anonymous, white lady, museum volunteer following along in her wake.
In a scripted tour, which began at the Hearts of Hope automated defibrillator in nearby Hurtle Square, the two guided participants in a rereading of the surrounding city — its logos, murals, graffiti, and lost objects; back lanes, cultural spaces and construction sites — to spin new narratives, teetering just on the edge of reality.
In the process, participants were swept along in a critique of the city seen through the lens of the archive, the museum, the artefact — also looking at the role of art and artists in shaping and reshaping the city. Shania and Susan are working together again in 2023 to build on the City Mobilities prototype and develop an extended series of scripted tours for different sites around the city.
Concept & lead artists:
Shania Richards – Wongutha, Ndjau, Mirning, Noongar, Wirengu, Bulang, Gubrun, Barngarla artist
Susan Charlton – writer and curator
This project has been supported by Arts South Australia and the City of Adelaide as part of the Projects of the Everyday artist commissioning initiative by OSCA.