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==== Rahel Aima ====
 
==== Rahel Aima ====
   
[[file:arch.jpeg|frame|Photograph of the Arch of Triumph from Palmyra, Syria being reconstructed in Trafalgar Square. Photo: David Parry.]]
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[[file:arch.jpeg|thumb|5OOpx|Photograph of the Arch of Triumph from Palmyra, Syria being reconstructed in Trafalgar Square. Photo: David Parry.]]
   
 
Earlier this year, I visited Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art. The I.M. Pei-designed building is immediately stunning in its synthesis of different Islamic styles, particularly the muqarnas of its interior dome. What stuck with me was the enviable breadth and quality of works on display, which brought together art and artefacts from across the Muslim world, with an emphasis on Iran and South Asia. And especially how, unlike the Elgin Marbles and Rosetta Stone at the British Museum, the Nefertiti bust at Berlin’s Neues Museum, or the Met’s entire Islamic wing, these objects somehow felt right, as if they’d somehow come home. I thought about the reports that a good portion of the objects looted from Iraq, and more recently, Syria now end up here, or in other Khaleeji collections, and that perhaps it’s not the worst thing in the world.
 
Earlier this year, I visited Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art. The I.M. Pei-designed building is immediately stunning in its synthesis of different Islamic styles, particularly the muqarnas of its interior dome. What stuck with me was the enviable breadth and quality of works on display, which brought together art and artefacts from across the Muslim world, with an emphasis on Iran and South Asia. And especially how, unlike the Elgin Marbles and Rosetta Stone at the British Museum, the Nefertiti bust at Berlin’s Neues Museum, or the Met’s entire Islamic wing, these objects somehow felt right, as if they’d somehow come home. I thought about the reports that a good portion of the objects looted from Iraq, and more recently, Syria now end up here, or in other Khaleeji collections, and that perhaps it’s not the worst thing in the world.
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The very physicality and integrity of material cultures as objects seem to make them especially fraught in the discourse around cultural appropriation. Or perhaps it’s that these objects cannot be readily consumed—and sometimes even exhumed—the way that cuisine, music, dance, martial arts, and especially language are, all of which point to what happens when culture becomes data. Yet the thing about data, at least in its digital iterations, is that its attribution tends to be built in. Embedded in the files themselves is metadata, which the states of Arizona and Washington have recently ruled to be public record. Creative Commons and similar licenses, meanwhile, give creators a fine level of control over the commercial circulation and derivative iterations of their works. Crucially, the creator(s) retains these rights after their works enter the commons. Although legislation like the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act provides some recourse, the same is rarely true for cultural objects.
 
The very physicality and integrity of material cultures as objects seem to make them especially fraught in the discourse around cultural appropriation. Or perhaps it’s that these objects cannot be readily consumed—and sometimes even exhumed—the way that cuisine, music, dance, martial arts, and especially language are, all of which point to what happens when culture becomes data. Yet the thing about data, at least in its digital iterations, is that its attribution tends to be built in. Embedded in the files themselves is metadata, which the states of Arizona and Washington have recently ruled to be public record. Creative Commons and similar licenses, meanwhile, give creators a fine level of control over the commercial circulation and derivative iterations of their works. Crucially, the creator(s) retains these rights after their works enter the commons. Although legislation like the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act provides some recourse, the same is rarely true for cultural objects.
   
[[file:3d-modelling.jpg,1440.jpeg|frame|Visualization of digital archaeology techniques for constructing a 3D virtual model. Image: The Million Image Database.]]
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[[file:3d-modelling.jpg,1440.jpeg|thumb|5OOpx|Visualization of digital archaeology techniques for constructing a 3D virtual model. Image: The Million Image Database.]]
   
 
In September 2016, the ICC set a remarkable precedent by passing a nine-year sentence on Malian militant Ahmad al Faqi al Mahdi for orchestrating attacks on nine of Timbuktu’s mosques and mausoleums in 2012. He was charged with a war crime—the first time for an act of cultural destruction. While the ICC has indicted some 42 people to date, only three have been charged. Everyone indicted thus far has been an African, inciting suspicions of bias that has resulted in South Africa and Burundi withdrawing from the court, and the African Union exhorting all its member states to follow suit.
 
In September 2016, the ICC set a remarkable precedent by passing a nine-year sentence on Malian militant Ahmad al Faqi al Mahdi for orchestrating attacks on nine of Timbuktu’s mosques and mausoleums in 2012. He was charged with a war crime—the first time for an act of cultural destruction. While the ICC has indicted some 42 people to date, only three have been charged. Everyone indicted thus far has been an African, inciting suspicions of bias that has resulted in South Africa and Burundi withdrawing from the court, and the African Union exhorting all its member states to follow suit.
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Introducing the catalogue for the inaugural 2010 exhibition at Doha’s Mathaf, “Sajjil: A Century of Modern Arab Art,” curators Nada Shabout, Wassan al-Khudairi, and Deena Chalabi write, “Qatar’s aim is to highlight the Arab and Islamic relationship, important agencies for the country’s constructed image and history, as increasingly relevant for the local as well as the global.” You would be hard pressed to find such an open acknowledgement of the country’s image and historical construction less than a decade later, but the sentiment still remains. It’s worth emphasizing that Qatar, along with comparable Gulf city states like the UAE, is in no way unique here. This retrofitting of a civilizational genealogy as a means of self-inscription within global history is an extension of the same phenomenon that arbitrarily posited the glories of the ancient Greeks and Romans as the fount of Western civilization and tried, through what has come to be known as the Hametic Hypothesis, to argue the ancient Egyptians and other African civilizations must have had Caucasian roots. Still, the Gulf states’ drawing up of civilizational genealogies is happening today, and works through deploying contemporary technologies which make it all the more fascinating.
 
Introducing the catalogue for the inaugural 2010 exhibition at Doha’s Mathaf, “Sajjil: A Century of Modern Arab Art,” curators Nada Shabout, Wassan al-Khudairi, and Deena Chalabi write, “Qatar’s aim is to highlight the Arab and Islamic relationship, important agencies for the country’s constructed image and history, as increasingly relevant for the local as well as the global.” You would be hard pressed to find such an open acknowledgement of the country’s image and historical construction less than a decade later, but the sentiment still remains. It’s worth emphasizing that Qatar, along with comparable Gulf city states like the UAE, is in no way unique here. This retrofitting of a civilizational genealogy as a means of self-inscription within global history is an extension of the same phenomenon that arbitrarily posited the glories of the ancient Greeks and Romans as the fount of Western civilization and tried, through what has come to be known as the Hametic Hypothesis, to argue the ancient Egyptians and other African civilizations must have had Caucasian roots. Still, the Gulf states’ drawing up of civilizational genealogies is happening today, and works through deploying contemporary technologies which make it all the more fascinating.
   
[[file:cloud.jpeg|frame|Photograph of Forensic Architecture, Bomb Cloud Atlas, 2016, as a part of "A World of Fragile Parts," the 2016 exhibition for the Pavilion of Applied Arts at the Venice Architecture Biennale.]]
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[[file:cloud.jpeg|thumb|5OOpx|Photograph of Forensic Architecture, Bomb Cloud Atlas, 2016, as a part of "A World of Fragile Parts," the 2016 exhibition for the Pavilion of Applied Arts at the Venice Architecture Biennale.]]
   
 
Whereas Europe might have favored scientific racism as a technological aide, these days we instead see 3D printing widely deployed as an attempt to preserve and even reconstruct monuments and relics destroyed by ISIS. Take the Institute for Digital Archaeology (IDA)—a collaboration between Oxford and Harvard universities and the UAE’s Museum of the Future—and its recreation of a razed Palmyran arch. The sintered arch has spent the last year touring intergovernmental summits from its unveiling in Trafalgar Square, London, to its most recent stint at this year’s G7 summit in Florence, with stops in New York and Dubai. (One wonders whether such heritage objects will become de rigeur at such events, like one of Taryn Simon’s political summit flower bouquet portraits.) A report from the arch’s New York showing suggests sticking points of attribution, access, and enthusiastic link forging as exemplified in a snippet from the IDA’s executive director Roger Michel’s speech: ‘New York has thrived in exactly the same ways as Palmyra — as a center of commerce, of art, of technology, of learning. Everything about Palmyra that was great is what is great about New York City’. Projects like the IDA’s raise interesting questions about the fungibility of these buildings and artefacts. We may see it as the logical next step in the economy of casts and copies that have long characterized Western institutions. But who—if anyone—owns that arch and that heritage, especially with the original destroyed? (Just as the idea of the commons is continually under threat of appropriation by the forces of capital, we might begin to wonder whether adverse possession, or squatter’s rights, are next.) Disputed objects from more recent memory, like art from Japanese internment camps or works looted during the Holocaust are beginning to be returned, but thus far there seems to be an implicit statute of limitations on the spoils of colonialism.
 
Whereas Europe might have favored scientific racism as a technological aide, these days we instead see 3D printing widely deployed as an attempt to preserve and even reconstruct monuments and relics destroyed by ISIS. Take the Institute for Digital Archaeology (IDA)—a collaboration between Oxford and Harvard universities and the UAE’s Museum of the Future—and its recreation of a razed Palmyran arch. The sintered arch has spent the last year touring intergovernmental summits from its unveiling in Trafalgar Square, London, to its most recent stint at this year’s G7 summit in Florence, with stops in New York and Dubai. (One wonders whether such heritage objects will become de rigeur at such events, like one of Taryn Simon’s political summit flower bouquet portraits.) A report from the arch’s New York showing suggests sticking points of attribution, access, and enthusiastic link forging as exemplified in a snippet from the IDA’s executive director Roger Michel’s speech: ‘New York has thrived in exactly the same ways as Palmyra — as a center of commerce, of art, of technology, of learning. Everything about Palmyra that was great is what is great about New York City’. Projects like the IDA’s raise interesting questions about the fungibility of these buildings and artefacts. We may see it as the logical next step in the economy of casts and copies that have long characterized Western institutions. But who—if anyone—owns that arch and that heritage, especially with the original destroyed? (Just as the idea of the commons is continually under threat of appropriation by the forces of capital, we might begin to wonder whether adverse possession, or squatter’s rights, are next.) Disputed objects from more recent memory, like art from Japanese internment camps or works looted during the Holocaust are beginning to be returned, but thus far there seems to be an implicit statute of limitations on the spoils of colonialism.

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