With her latest exhibition, artist Morehshin Allahyari questions how to responsibly recreate ancient artefacts destroyed by ISIS.
Morehshin Allahyari is an Iranian-born artist who recreates artefacts that have been destroyed by the so-called Islamic State. To achieve this, she uses 3D printing. In the process, she draws attention to both the importance of the destroyed artefacts and the power of this technology.
In the past two years, she has recreated destroyed statues — one of which including King Uthal of Hatra — and then releases the data and 3D files online.
Her latest work focuses on recreating artefacts which she feels are under-represented. Namely, female mythological figures. These pieces are on display in her new exhibition, Material Speculation: ISIS, at the Fact gallery in Liverpool, UK until 21st May.
She explains: “It is a ‘fuck you’ to ISIS in some ways. But it is also a gesture for these things to be remembered.”
However, she is increasingly concerned that companies making digital recreations of artefacts could profit from selling access to the 3D files. She worries that this could mark the beginning of what she terms “digital colonialism”.
Morehshin Allahyari has a Plan to Save Cultural Heritage
Allahyari argues: “If ISIS takes over this ownership of cultural heritage by destruction, the other side of it is this simplistic, Utopian Silicon Valley . Their claim is, ‘We are saving the cultural heritage of the world’ — actually, you are selling a product.”
Allahyari’s wants to start a conversation in which we explore the rising tension between destroyed artworks and the “Silicon Valley” approach. Her work is part of the How Much of This is Fiction free exhibition at Liverpool’s Fact Gallery.
For Allahyari, companies merely creating copies of destroyed artefacts is simply not enough. “It’s about ownership”, she argues, “It’s about taking the ownership of digital data as seriously as the physical.”
Her exhibit will focus on this particular problem as well as the issue of cultural ownership in the digital age. She isn’t interested in simply creating duplicates of lost artefacts, she states: “I don’t think it’s possible to replace these artefacts.”
Each of the twelve pieces in the exhibit has a USB stick inside which holds the 3D files for that particular print. This USB stick also has information about the original artefact too.
Interested in learning more? Read about the processes and motivations behind Allahyari’s work over on her website.
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