Yesterday, we suggested that the obliteration of archaeological treasures in Iraq was on our mind because of a story in the Guardian about an upcoming exhibition at the British Museum. The show will document the predations on Iraq’s rich archaeological sites, primarily the ruins of Babylon, by U.S. and UK forces since the beginning of the invasion of Iraq. The extent of the losses will probably never be known — how could it when you are filling sandbags from ground from the strata that holds the fragmentary artifacts at a base you’ve established right next to the site of ancient Babylon?
“It’s a tragedy of the highest cultural consequence unfolding before us and nobody is caring,” said (Dan)Cruickshank (architecture historian). “The British Museum is absolutely right to raise this issue. We need to debate what is happening to this place and the 10,000 other archaeological sites across Iraq that have not been fully documented and recorded.”
If the occupiers of Iraq were to respond to these charges, I’m sure they’d simply say that, well, they’ve done their best, and, really, aren’t bigger issues at stake? This rhetorical question inevitably trumps any list of destroyed objects, trashed sites, pulverized architecture. Aren’t there bigger issues at stake? Presumably, they mean “democracy” but perhaps we suspect “geo-political advantage in a region also rich in oil.”
But what happens if we conduct a little thought experiment: What if our foreign policy was built on the preservation and support of art-making? What sort of approaches and decisions would we have made? Would this new principle guide us more effectively than the old one(s)?
Continue reading Wednesday scatter: Viva Babylon!