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Mosul Museum: “between the real and its representation”

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — last of three posts — the media studies / pomo side of the IS Mosul Museum rampage ]
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Simulacra Baudrillard

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It’s the sort of thing Bryan Alexander so often features in his Infocult blog — an instance of cyberfear. Writing of “Jihadi John” aka Mohammed Emwazi in the NYRB, Malise Ruthven says:

The casual brutalism of his online videos — he decapitated five Western and two Japanese hostages as well as numerous Syrian soldiers, and posed with the severed heads — suggests the insidious way that a generation brought up in cyberspace may have lost the connection between the real and its representation.

We’re in Baudrillard territory here, Simulacra and Simulation — even though it was written before digital / virtual “space” was much of an issue — is the relevant text here:

Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map, nor survives it. Henceforth, it is the map that precedes the territory – precession of simulacra – it is the map that engenders the territory..

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This also bears relation to the bad news / good news, perhaps, of the IS video of iconoclasm in the Mosul museum:

Mosul Museum: then the good news, perhaps

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — second of three posts, this one more hopeful ]
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Does ISIS really have SEVEN-FOOT tall executioners? Parts of grisly film showing beheading of 21 Christians were faked, claim experts

Veryan Khan, of the Florida-based Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium, told Fox News that there are several technical mistakes in the video that show it was manipulated.

She said that in the shot of the terrorists marching their prisoners along the beach, the jihadis appear to be 7ft tall – towering as much as two feet above their victims.

This observation was supported by Hollywood director Mary Lambert who described it as the shot with the ‘really tall Jihadists and the dwarf Christians.’

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Analysis: Mosul Museum video from Islamic State could be a staged drama

Britain’s Channel 4 television gave the Islamic State propaganda video to archaeologists to examine. Mark Altaweel, an American scholar at the Institute of Archaeology at University College London, noted the modern iron rebar protruding from inside some of the smashed statues. It disproves their authenticity.

Nonetheless, the vandalism’s cultural insult strikes deep. The Iraqi people, Altaweel said, “are taking the destruction of their cultural heritage – their identity, essentially – just as seriously as the beheadings.”

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The above ties in with the notion expressed in the LA Times article — where else? — Islamic State and its increasingly sophisticated cinema of terror:

The cinematography is as crisp and chilling as a horror movie. Men in orange jumpsuits kneel on a beach beneath a sky of broken clouds. Executioners hover over them, dressed in black, knives aglint. A masked militant reads the death sentence. The camera pans across praying faces. Knives are raised, and 21 men are beheaded, blood spilling into the sand and mixing with the waves.

This and other recent execution videos released by Islamic State are slickly produced narratives of multiple camera angles, eerie tension and polished editing that suggest the filmmakers are versed in Hollywood aesthetics. Brutal and perverse, the clips, some infused with music and subtitles, carry a primeval message stylized for a world wired to social media and hypnotized by an endless pulse of competing images.

The beheadings and other killings, including the burning alive of a captured Jordanian fighter pilot, represent an increasingly sophisticated cinema of terror.

For more on the media side of things, see the third and last post in this series.

Mosul Museum: first the bad news, perhaps

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — there’s some question as to the authenticity of the footage of destruction in the Mosul Museum, hence the triple post of which this is part 1 ]
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First the grief, the terrible wailings:

The reason for the grief:

I have to say, I too was moved to tears by the video.

The symbolic impact:

An individual’s response ties the destruction of statuary in with the destruction of lives:

A communal response as reported by the same individual:

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Two useful articles:

  • from the Editor of the Middle East Journal, More on the Destruction in the Mosul Museum:

    Following up on those videos of ISIS smashing Assyrian antiquities in the Mosul Museum, here’s a roundup of commentary and detail from several websites around the preservationist community. And let me emphasize that I am not giving more weight to the destruction of antiquities than to the slaughter of human beings, but that barbarity is already well known.

  • and from The Atlantic, Erased: ISIS and the Destruction of Ancient Artifacts

    But another way to think about it is as squarely in a tradition of iconoclasm. Abraham, the patriarch of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, himself destroyed idols, according to tradition. There’s a strong tradition of icon-destruction in Christianity. And in pre-Islamic Mecca, the Kaaba was the site of multiple idols, which Muhammad cleared out before rededicating the site to God. This is certainly the tradition to which ISIS wishes to claim a connection. The Taliban, another group that claimed fidelity to the principles of early Islam, also spent a great deal of time destroying images of people—most notably the massive Buddhas at Bamiyan in Afghanistan. The tomb of Muhammad in Mecca was itself destroyed by Ibn Saud, the first monarch of Saudi Arabia, early in the 20th century.

    The fog of war makes it tough to tell when genuine artifacts are missing or in danger.
    In reality, the relationship with icons in all three Abrahamic religions is rather more elaborate than Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi would want us to believe—but the tradition is there. Destroying traces of forebears, and even robbing and destroying tombs, has perhaps a longer tradition in civilization than preservation.

    ISIS can’t claim total purity on the matter itself, either. The group has widely been reported to be profiting by selling plundered artifacts on the black market.

  • **

    And let’s not forget the Christian tradition of iconoclasm, both Orthodox and Protestant, either:

    The torture and martyrdom of the iconophile Bishop Euthymius of Sardeis by the iconoclast Byzantine Emperor Michael II in 824, in a 13th-century manuscript

    The torture and martyrdom of the iconophile Bishop Euthymius of Sardeis by the iconoclast Byzantine Emperor Michael II in 824, in a 13th-century manuscript

    Chris Bateman and Cornelius Castoriadis

    Thursday, February 26th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — to Chris Bateman and all — concerning the hard problem in consciousness ]
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    Chris Bateman is a game designer and philosopher whose sense of games informs his philosophy, while Cornelius Castoriadis was a philosopher influenced by Lacanian psychoanalysis — for some reason, I have previously and it seems erroneously identified him as an architect. The first quote below is from Chris Bateman’s blog post a day or three ago, Voiding The Hard Problem of Consciousness on Only a Game:

    SPEC DQ Bateman Castoriadis

    The second quote is from Castoriadis’ book, World in Fragments: Writings on Politics, Society, Psychoanalysis, and the Imagination.

    This post is offered as a coversational rejoinder to Chris’ post, in the spirit of the ‘Republic of Letters’.

    Are the friends of my enemy’s other enemies friends of mine?

    Thursday, February 26th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — a missile wrapped in a paradox inside a sandstorm — Syria ]
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    So. tell me, which? This?

    or this?

    Or can you have it both ways?

    **

    Six minutes separates those two tweets.

    the title of this post is very likely confused. As am I.


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