9 Jun 2017, 18.30
@ The Photographers’ Gallery
with Özge Ersoy, Nour A. Munawar, Sarah Nankivell, Christina Varvia
curated by Annet Dekker
Trafficking of cultural heritage is nothing new. It ranges from the looting of archaeological sites, theft from cultural heritage institutions and private collections, and the displacement of artefacts due to war. Recently a new phenomenon can be added to this list: the filming of destructions of “fake” ancient relics, while the originals are quickly and illicitly traded.
Following the release of such videos by ISIS, many Western nation states reacted with outrage and responded by attempts to digitally preserve or rebuild of some of the remains. While adopting conventional methods of appropriation, and ignoring their own role in these (fake) destructions, a new player entered the marketplace: commercial companies specializing in 3D modelling and printing.
The possibility of generating detailed copies of an artefact without the need to access it brings undeniable benefits in terms of its accessibility and preservation. It allows people access to lost ‘treasures’; a digital model can capture the appearance and shape of an object in a way that a 2-dimensional representation could never do. Rather than being committed to the preservation of cultural heritage it could be argued these companies are profiting from the reselling of copyrighted files. Drawing attention to the importance of a freely shared memory and using the power of technology, artist Morehshin Allahyari devised her own method to counter what she considers to be a new ‘digital colonialism’. Based on found footage from exhibition catalogues, tourists’ snapshots and using her imagination, she created 3D visualization models from scratch in her project “Material Speculation: ISIS”. Realised as 3D printed sculptures, these cultural objects have the documentation of their creation embedded on a flash drive inside the model, which has also been shared by Allahyari online for others to use.
Reflecting on Allahyari’s use of technology as a political medium, the panelists will present their views on what could be a decolonialist practice. They will show how re-use and re-interpretation allow for a new set of values to emerge in which destroyed objects, and their users, regain agency through digitisation. [Read more…]