” … the oldest new structure in the history of this city.”


Less than six months after the Monumental Arch of Palmyra was destroyed by ISIS in 2015, it was reborn as a ⅓ scale replica at the fingertips of the London-based Institute for Digital Archaeology. 3D modeled in London and robotically carved from marble, the new arch is a refugee monument. It is built of easily disassemblable parts to be crated all over the world, from London to New York to Florence, to take part in highly mediated unveiling ceremonies as a proposed symbol of unity with Syrians. My work, in which I digitally remove the arch from several of these unveiling scenes, looks to distill the essential magic trick being offered up by the spectacle; the power to uproot physical heritage from its human stewards and make it reappear as a placeless facsimile. 


” … the oldest new structure in the history of this city.” Trafalgar Square, London.Altered Video. 2017. 42 seconds.

Image Description: A wide angle shot of Trafalgar Square, London recorded from a tripod-mounted camera where an approximately 20-foot arch is cloaked in a silky white fabric pressed into the contours of the massive, milled marble structure. Then-London Mayor Boris Johnson stands screen left alongside several other people in suits and says “and it is with my great, great pleasure therefore that I hereby unveil the oldest new structure in the history of this city. Ladies and gentlemen the Triumphal Arch of Palmyra. 3. 2.1.” In this appropriated version, the grand reveal that follows this speech is subverted by a visual effect that attempts to seamlessly remove the arch from the unveiling ceremony. The event therefore reads more like a magic show, with the audience clapping as normal.

” … the oldest new structure in the history of this city.” City Hall Park, New York. Altered Video. 2017. 7 seconds. Original footage courtesy Claire Voon.

Image Description: A medium wide handheld video formatted for Instagram squares shows the same cloaked arch described above but in New York City’s City Hall Park. The massive fabric covering is pulled from behind the arch as if being vacuumed by a distant point in the background. The fabric slides up the front side of the arch with the ease of an oversized shirt being lifted from the body but a visual effect causes the arch to disappear where it would otherwise be revealed. Orchestral sounds and sparse clapping accompany the more understated unveiling.

” … the oldest new structure in the history of this city.” Piazza della Signoria, Florence. 2017. Altered Video. 59 seconds on loop. Dimensions variable.

Image Description: A medium wide handheld video shows the same cloaked arch described in the previous two videos, this time in Piazza della Signoria, Florence. The unveiling ceremony is here being led by Executive Director of the Institute for Digital Archaeology, Roger Michel, who says, in Italian, that “we are all Syrians.” The microphone is passed to Florence Mayor Dario Nardella who says, in Italian, “thank you.” On this notably windy day, several members of the ceremony assist in the unveiling, and take turns being swallowed in the folds of the immense white fabric that eventually falls to the ground with no arch in sight.

Unlimited Unveil. 2D Documentation of a Virtual Reality Experience. 2018. VR Experience. 43 seconds on continuous loop. Technical Assistance by Jeremy Rotsztain.

A screen capture video showing a 2D rendition of a virtual reality experience in which the draped arch has been placed in a gray virtual space with three golden stanchions placed in front of it. The dialog from Boris Johnson’s London unveiling emanates throughout the seemingly endless space and the video demonstrates multiple vantage points accessed through virtual teleportation. The covered arch repeatedly becomes uncloaked only to disappear.