The movie Monuments Men starring George Clooney and Matt Damon is loosely based on a true story of an Allied group from Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives programme risking their lives to protect important cultural property during WWII. It is estimated that during wartime over 750,000 artworks were either destroyed or stolen by Nazi forces.
70 years on from D-Day the “threat of this generation” according to British Prime Minister is ISIS and in February this year footage emerged of some of their members destroying ancient artefacts in the Mosul Museum, Iraq. The upsetting video features several men taking sledgehammers to antiquities thousands of years old as an ISIS representative states: “These statues and idols, these artefacts, if God has ordered its removal, they became worthless to us even if they are worth billions of dollars.”
The destruction caused widespread heartache: “I’m totally shocked,” Amir al-Jumaili, professor at the Archaeology College in Mosul, told the Associated Press at the time. “It’s a catastrophe. With the destruction of these artefacts, we can no longer be proud of Mosul’s civilisation.”
Reproduction to combat destruction
Iranian-born, San Francisco-based artist Morehshin Allahyari is using 3D printing technology to fight this systematic and senseless destruction, in doing so she is becoming a very 21st Century Monument Woman seeking to make Mosul proud of its civilisation once more.
At Autodesk’s Pier 9 workshop Allahyari has tirelessly sourced imagery and documentation for several of the Mosul Museum’s most important pieces. Enlisting help from archaeologists and historians from establishments spanning the British Museum and Iraqi institutions she has managed to produce faithful replicas of some of the destroyed pieces for her project, ‘Material Speculation: ISIS’.
“I don’t think you can ever replace these artefacts,” states Allahyari. “But what I’m trying to do is find a way to recreate them as faithfully as possible.”
At Autodesk’s Pier 9 facility in Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, that ‘way’ was to use one of the many 3D printing technologies on offer to the artists in residence. After modelling the files using the data she collected new media artist, Allahyari used Stratasys PolyJet technology with VeroClear materials to create the replicas.
The material choice is important for one of the collection’s key features; each replica has a memory card embedded inside it complete with all of the information Allahyari discovered during research. Each piece acts as a time capsule preserving the artefacts for future generations.
“One of the things I want to do for the next version of the project is to have the information as well as the printable files available to the public online.” Says Allahyari.
The hope is that by highlighting the plight of the Mosul items, recreating them and distributing the files online it will create and exposure that directly contravenes the intentions of ISIS in the first place. Combatting the destruction of history by recreating it and disseminating it to the globe.