Our mop haired Mayor Mr Johnson never misses a photo opportunity to bolster his image as a misjudging, hot air-filled joke by posing with a misjudged, hot air-filled joke. As a gesture of ‘solidarity’ with civilisations torn apart by ISIS, unveiled in Trafalgar Square to baying press was a 3D printed (?) replica of Palmyra’s 1,800 year old Arch of Triumph, apparently to erm.. draw attention to ISIS destroying stuff?
Described as a ‘gesture’ – this is exactly what it is: an ineffectual wave of the hand making some waffling reference to the ISIS issue, but in effect remaining firmly hands off when it comes to actually doing something effective about it. Sure, it is a collaboration between the UK based Institute of Digital Archaeology, UNESCO, and Dubai’s Museum of the Future Foundation, and comes with a comprehensive education programme coinciding with the Institute’s Million Image Database, which seeks to record using 3D photography all at-risk sites around the world.
But what does creating an isolated replica – costing a reported $143,000 – actually contribute to this education? Are the millions of people who view it when it tours to New York City and Dubai really going to actively engage on a more intellectually and spiritually deeper level with it than the obligatory selfie? I’m not going to begin the debate as to how the money could have gone to infinitely more useful purposes as it’d just depress me beyond words, but the additional fact that the whole thing is 20 feet high, instead of the actual 50 feet, is hardly going to send searing inspiration into the hearts of viewers. (I’m sure I’m not the only one who also immediately thought of – whisper it – Spinal Tap’s infamously miniature Stonehenge…)
In other news, a truly macabre exhibit has opened called Famous Deaths, part of a Tribeca Film Institute display which would have made J.G. Ballard blush with its apparent lack of irony. In it, you can experience the last four minutes of a celebrity’s life while locked in a coffin-like mortuary drawer. Someone please tell me that the exhibit, which includes accompanying aromas – selected as inspired by JFK’s grassy knoll assassination, or the bathtub in which Whitney Huston died – is one enormous joke satirising our infantile celebrity worship. Because nobody is going to make an artwork which really presents the smell of death – eau de decomposition, anyone? – that punters would voluntarily spend four minutes in.