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Inhuman With The Human Archive: Taking It Out On A Statue


Human Archive Suffers A Blow via

This is how a museum works:

You study parts of museum collections to discover gaps in time, material, and style.

It’s an archive of stuff made by human, a human archive.

For instance, American clocks had metal workings before the Revolutionary War.

Wooden workings suggest an even earlier clock, except Americans didn’t get metal workings from England during the war so they reverted to wood.

Make sense? It’s kind of a design deke for new collectors.

After researchers find gaps in museum collections they keep an eye for donations to fill the gap.

Sometimes it’s a purchase, sometimes it’s a gift.

Once an object makes it into a museum collection it gets cleaned and cataloged, protected and stored in climate controlled environments.

When an exhibit calls for a special artifact, the object comes out of storage and into public view.

You know the big rule in museums? Don’t touch the stuff.

Which brings us to the image above.

Destruction Just To Destroy

A recent Time Magazine cover tells us we may live to be 142, give or take.

Who doesn’t want to know how that works?

But a longer live means heavier bags to carry.

How would ancient Greeks and Romans view the destruction of their treasures over an extended life line? They’d be pained to see their stuff crushed.

But it happens.

Did anyone see The Monuments Men? Nazis crushing art, burning canvases, for the good of their order.

A video of middle eastern art bashers looks like something from that movie.

Thousands of years from now the work hammered by the new museum workers will be on exhibit to show how we handled the human archive in 2015.

(If ‘human archive’ is unfamiliar it’s because I just invented it. As a museum fan with a history background I classify stuff in the material world by instinct.

All within the built environment resides in the human archive. If it’s built by the human species, it’s in the human archive.)

What comes to mind when you see exquisite marble sculpture of the human form in perfect symmetry…with an arm and a foot broken off?

Sort of ruins the mood, but also delivers a message of delicacy. Yes it’s marble, but it breaks so be careful.

The new museum workers with sledgehammers and drills don’t follow those rules.

Their anti-conservation efforts are powered by ideology and fear.

Fear of false idols?

Or the allure of false idols? That’s a crisis of faith, not a reason to bring the hammer down.

People of faith don’t fear false idols because they have the strength of their convictions.

Breaking art in the human archive breaks the connection to a civilized world.

It feels so Old Testament. Now you see what’s going on? The destruction of art in the middle east is happening in the land of the Old Testament.

Just because it’s the land of the Old Testament doesn’t mean go Old Testament on everything (thank you Pulp Fiction.)

Middle eastern militias aren’t the first to pour blood in the sand, or jungle, or pavement. We do expect better behavior from our fellow man, but it’s all been done before.

We see the human destruction, human trafficking, human sacrifice/execution. Some cultures breed contempt for human advancement, like China during their Cultural Revolution and Cambodia during Pol Pot.

The French had ceremonial head chopping with the big blade guillotine, the English had sharp axes. Get up, get it done, roll along. You can’t do that with a saw.

If smearing the human archive with the blood of innocents isn’t enough, bring out the hammers.

Measure the difference in skill sets between the artist and the new museum worker.

One had insight. The other will have no sight if they get a stone shard in the eye.

One adds to the human archive. The other subtracts.

One documents an era with their interpretation in stone. The other portrays blind obedience with a sledgehammer.

Portland baby boomers can inventory local public art that would eat it under middle eastern museum etiquette.

The elk? They’d bag it.

Abraham Lincoln in the Park Block? Strap a chain from a tow truck on it.

Teddy Roosevelt on horseback between the Portland Art Museum and the Oregon Historical Society? Drawn and quartered.

With longer lives moving forward, who’s going to carry those overflowing bags of remorse?




About David Gillaspie
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