Edward Said in his seminal book Orientalism asks “how one can study [or create about] other cultures and peoples from a libertarian, or a nonrepressive and nonmanipulative, perspective” to then answer “one would have to rethink the whole complex problem of knowledge and power.1”
Mosul is the use of the 3D archive as a tool to reveal and challenge the link between art, creation of knowledge and dominant power in the digital era. Consisting of digital prints, videos and sculptures, this project aims at broadening the vision of History and Archiving.
The attacks on the Mosul Museum in February 2015 sparked a vast initiative to digitize and preserve important works and monuments. By creating a 3D archive of these original works and making them available to everyone on the internet, a fundamental shift operated which is reshaping our relation towards Art and how we experience it. Through this digital translation, we are stripping away the market value and the aura of each and every original piece to, instead, emphasize cultural value.
By gathering these 3D files, the computer progressively becomes a digital museum, and because of this, the question of the historical value arises. If the museum is the place where artworks rest for eternity as Adorno said2, the digital allows one to reconsider conceptually and aesthetically these masterpieces by putting them through a 3D program. The malleability of the scans generates a paradigm shift; these cultural objects become materials that can be rethought and reassessed, actualizing how we learned and memorized them. The digital archive therefore carries a dual function; on one side, when collected, it turns into a digital mausoleum, where its physicality is put in relation with the knowledge we made of it until now. It is approached in the same way as an encyclopaedia3; taking each object as a visual reference part of the whole art historical knowledge. But on the other side, by putting it through a 3D program, it then develops into a conceptually porous substance that allows us to insert new contexts and new ways of seeing. In a sense, it reignites the discussions about the works by introducing a gap with the original, putting it in a liberated and experimental zone.
Moreover, Derrida points out in Archive Fever that “There is no political power without a control of the archive, if not memory.”4 This led Chaumont to search for who or which institutions were controlling and purveying objects. The artist discovered that though the archive started as a way to counter the destruction of artworks in the Mosul museum, it quickly became a tool for Western institution to propagate its History. The 3D archive became then for Chaumont a way to highlight and hinder this phenomenon by transforming the files and creating his own anti-archive.
1 Said, Edward W. “Orientalism”,Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Oct 1, 2014, p.32
2 Adorno, Theodore W. "Valery Proust Museum." Prisms. Trans. Samuel and Shierry Weber. London: Spearman, 1967.
3 Glossary of Library Terms. Riverside City College, Digital Library/Learning Resource Center.
4 Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, trans. Eric Prenowitz (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1995): 4