Virtual Excavations

Still from YouTube-video “Army Secures Egyptian Museum From Looters”, 29.1.2011. Source: YouTube/Associated Press

“He who seeks to approach his own buried past, must conduct himself like a man digging…
Epic and rhapsodic in the strictest sense, genuine memory must therefore yield an image of the person who remembers, in the same way a good archaeological report not only informs us about the strata from which its findings originate, but also gives an account of the strata which first had to be broken through.”
Walter Benjamin, Excavation and Memory, ca. 1932

The project Virtual Excavations – an ongoing film and publication project – is a reflection on archaeology and trauma; an exploration of the gesture of digging, both in the sediments of imagined pasts and futures and the strata of consciousness. The project tells a meandering tale of shifting grounds and virtual planes, connecting the bust of Nefertiti with legacies of the Egyptian revolution from 2011; invoking ghostly residues of colonialism and the holocaust; and tracing archaeological practices and aesthetics between excavation, analysis and animation. At its core is the examination of archaeology as one of the grand narratives of our time, the determining cultural technique through which we look at ourselves and the other: a hybrid discipline between text and technology that digs for material and immaterial carriers of meaning, from ancient sites to unconscious experiences. Yet what does it mean to excavate in times of increasing virtuality, when things sediment in surfaces, databases, networks? The project looks at various archaeological attempts to locate and exhume imagery of potential past and future, along the lines of expansion, repression, relief and representation.

Still from a 3D Animation from an unfinished project, invoking the shadow of the bust of Nefertiti through the archaeological equipment that was used to unearth it. Source: Kaya Behkalam 2011