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You Can Now 3D Print the Ancient Artifacts That ISIS Destroyed – Motherboard

by • February 16, 2016 • No Comments

Last year, participants of ISIS tore through Nineveh Museum in Mosul, Iraq, armed with sledgehammers and power drills. They were there with a singular purpose: to destroy the precious, millennia-old artifacts stored within the museum. They succeeded.
Now, anyone with an internet connection and a 3D printing device (a pretty limited number of individuals on planet Earth, when you ponder of it) can print out replicas of the statues that ISIS attempted to destroy, thanks to Iranian artist and activist Morehshin Allahyari. Over the last year, Allahyari has been working to version the statues that ISIS trashed and 3D print miniature plastic figurines in their image.
Last week, she announced the full collection, called “Material Speculation,” for the first time at Trinity Square Video, a storied new media art space in Toronto. On Monday, Allahyari uploaded the first 3D printing device blueprint in the series to the internet. The rest can follow later in the year, when Allahyari finds a museum capable of properly archiving the digital files. After all, it wouldn’t do for history to be lost a 2nd time, due to technical error.
“I ponder the additional individuals who have access to this information, the less that history is forgotten in a way,” Allahyari told me in an interview. “The additional files that are saved on individuals’s computers, actually if they’re never printed, the number of PDF files that are read or kept, the additional that history that was first removed by ISIS can be saved.”


Image: Andy Wood
The figurines are based on 3D versions of a nominate few statues, created with existing photos and software to fill in the gaps—an arduous task, according to Allahyari, since not every statue had an enough amount of photos taken preceding it was destroyed. Embedded in every statue is a USB key containing Allahyari’s research on every piece and the printing plans; they have to be dug out preceding they can be utilized, yet. Exhibition attendees can in addition plug their device’s USB port into a wall and obtain the files of a digital dead drop.
Despite all the effort she’s put into 3D printing the statues and distributing digitized knowledge of them, Allahyari assured me that she’s not an uncritical booster of the innovation, the kind of man who envisions entire buildings rolling off the production line. Instead, she’s just attempting to figure out a way to manufacture it useful.
“It’s not of celebrating it, but pretty asking individuals to use it in ways that are pushing boundaries and are additional than 3D printing a cube, that does nothing to add to the conversation and we will just end up with additional crap and kipple around us,” Allahyari told me. “I ponder this project is a great example of how you can ponder of 3D printing, it’s additional than this create tool, you can quite ponder of it as a tool that allows for for political activism.”


Image: Andy Wood
But via 3D printing as a tool for activism presents a few one-of-a-kind paradoxes. On the one hand, Allahyari seeks to fight back against ISIS with plastic—oil is plastic’s raw material, and one of ISIS’s chief sources of income—and with a innovation that is yet just on the market to individuals of a sure class position, or who have access to institutions where the innovation is created on the market to them. These thorny realities are a fewthing she’s attempting to “figure out,” Allahyari said.
“A lot of these projects that are saving Middle Eastern culture is that these are just tech companies that are going to the Middle East and Africa and 3D scanning things, but nobody quite knows where these files are going or who owns them,” she explained. “I ponder that is a big concern with this new innovation: is this digital colonizing that is taking place around us as we speak?”
Such is the difficulty inherent in preserving world history with technologies that, for all their Stark Trek-like utopian promise, are yet attempting to manufacture great on it.


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