Faculty Member Re-Creates Antiquities Destroyed by ISIS

Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’15 MS Mass Communications

Morehshin Allahyari (Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’15 MS Mass Communications).

SJSU lecturer and artist Morehshin Allahyari is using technology to save art from the past for the future.

She started her latest project, “Material Speculation: ISIS,” after seeing images of ISIS fighters destroying ancient artifacts at the Mosul Museum in Iraq. Not only does the Iranian-born artist have a personal interest in re-creating the 3,000-year-old art work, but her research lies at the nexus of 3-D technology, art and activism.

“I think there’s a lot of interest around ways you can use new technology to resist something political, but also how, as artists, you can respond to social, cultural and political events of our contemporary way of life,” Allahyari said.

3-D printers

One of the four miniature artifacts destroyed by ISIS. (Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’15 MS Mass Communications)

Using 3-D printers, Allahyari produced miniature versions of four of the artifacts destroyed by ISIS. The reproductions are miniature, plastic replicas of the original pieces.

“Getting accurate information about the artifacts was one of the most challenging aspects of the project,” she said. “So I included a flash memory card inside these artifacts, where I think about this idea of a time capsule. So in 20 to 30 years, people can take out these artifacts and have access to the information.”

The 3-D pieces are on display in Florence, Dallas, Istanbul, and soon, New York. Allahyari is traveling to each city to speak about her work. She’s also planning on re-creating five or six more artifacts that were destroyed by ISIS.

Art and history

As a new media artist, Allahyari believes we are entering an era of having access to certain kinds of artifacts, and having more affordable high-tech tools as a way to document and archive history.

“I think it’s really, really interesting to see in 10 years how that will change the whole landscape of museums, digital and physical archiving, and our role in general, as humans, to save, reflect back, or think about concepts related to history,” Allahyari said.