As part of the Platforms residency at The Lighthouse we have been developing a project that takes as its starting point the smuggling of Syrian and Iraqi artifacts out of the region and the power of the images generated by ISIS of their destruction.
Here is a little bit of the familiar images.
What is interesting is the potency of these images. What it appears that these represent and why they are a fresh enough story to make front page news when the daily death toll continues.
The questions are intentionally naive to get some distance from the situation and isolate what power the objects hold and therefore what power Isis inherits in their destruction.
Hardly any of the articles discussing the videos make any reference to what the objects are. We don’t know much about them one would presume. We know when they date from and there for that they are old. We know that we can never go back in time and make anything that is that old again. We know that. Without knowing anything much else. And that really is enough to talk about this kind of value. The kind of value that lends itself to Daily Mail shorthand in its universality.
What is that? How do we talk about that?
It struck me that we were given a pretty good term for this 80 years ago, in Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”.
That term is aura.
THE AURA: THE INIMITABLE UNIQUENESS OF THE GENUINE THING
The aura is formed over time.
The aura is the story of the object changing
Copying does not copy the aura
When the original is gone it is lost with the aura.
So here’s a thought experiement.
Lets say we replicated the statues at mosul.
3d scans and high grade duplication made 2015 (C) copies of the orginal.
And there were millions of them.
Would we still have to care that one of the million had been destroyed.
Would it have the same potency of someone stamping on a plastic model of the Eiffel Tower.
James Bridle in his project Open Book – an adventure into the possibility of the ebook – challenges this idea that the act of copying devalues the work:
“But I think that, 80 years on, we are building the tools to reclaim that aura and make it more valuable again. Business models, even social models, get broken all the time, and they get broken before we figure out how to replace them. Likewise, the aura model of art got broken 80 years ago, but we just might be figuring out how to fix it. What kills industries now is the same storm out of paradise that broke businesses before – but might just fix them in the future.”
The story of the Terracota army is interesting in the sense of what is the fake.
All of them are fakes
Over thousands of years people have been adding to the army.
They still do.
Its impossible to know which are the originals are which are TM 2015
Our presentation at The Lighthouse- took these thoughts as a starting point. Meet The Cabinet of Lost Things.
Could you have something mass produced that you could stick onto with an aura to make a potent object. A little like a postcard with a personal message.
The installation involved a cabinet of 16 drawers all with an assortment of object. Each one with a recording of a story of a personal object that was lost.
People were invited to record their own stories to new objects. Obviously being a story about a lost object the original was not the true representation but it evoked it in some way.