An artistic exploration of some archaeological theory.

11 February 2007

Reflexive Representations [1]: South Metope XXVII

10 – 12 July 2006
Digital Photomosaic (100 × 100 cm) of a Pentelic Marble Metope (c. 137 × 137 × 15 cm)

Detail below.

This photomosaic depicts South Metope XXVII (c. 440 bc) of the Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, which is now located in Room 18 of the British Museum in London. This is one example from the series of 32 metopes which were located on the south side of the Parthenon whose marble, highrelief sculptural decoration depicted images from the Centauromachy — the mythological battle between the Lapiths and the Centaurs which began in Thessaly during the wedding feast of Peirithöos and Hippodaemeia (Ovid Metamorphoses 12.210–535). The myth is a Classical juxtaposition of, and conflict over, concepts of civility and barbarism.

South Metope XXVII is also part of the group of sculptural works known as the Elgin Marbles which were brought to London from Athens by Thomas Bruce (1766–1841), Seventh Earl of Elgin, between 1800–1810. The collection was vested in the Trustees of The British Museum in perpetuity in 1816. The ownership of these sculptures by the British Museum is currently contested by the modern Greek nation state. The image is composed of a collage of 3600 ‘cell-images’ collected from unfiltered searches for the words ‘Britain’, ‘Greece’, ‘ελλάδα’, ‘ελλάς’ and ‘βρετανία’ through the Google ‘Image Search Engine’.

Each corner focuses on the images resulting from each search as follows:

Upper Left - ‘Britain
Bottom Left - ‘Greece
Upper Right - ‘ελλάδα’ and ‘ελλάς
Bottom Right - ‘βρετανία

The corner-focus of the images from each search term is utilized to make overt the structures through which some people understand and communicate identities visually and the impact of digital culture on these expressions. Yet as the viewer moves away from each corner, the divisions between these concepts are blurred and the composite image becomes a conflation of both mythical battles between civilizations and modern conflicts over the ownership of antiquities, identities and the linguistic expression of those identities. Thus the partibility of the image seeks to blur boundaries between conceived nation states and social identities through permeable exchanges between the visual representations of self and other.

The viewer is invited to explore the ‘cell-images’ themselves and question their role within the composite whole — leading to questions of both the images’ and their own involvement in personal and national expressions of cultural identity and conflicts over images of civilization. This piece also highlights the conflict of issues of ownership of images and control of the methods of representation. In this conflict, we acknowledge the challenge to conceptions of copyright and intellectual property, and cite the tradition of artistic appropriation of publicly accessible images as responsible acts of subversion; such is the nature of collage.

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