Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
March 10, 2015

ISIS Art Attack: Less than Meets the Eye?

Excuse me for being that skeptical about Islamic State propaganda videos.

Not being big on adoration in the first place (until it comes to art, I realize), the sight of the fundamentalists destroying ancient artifacts in the Mosul Museum just about makes my blood boil. Just about. The hesitation is a practical one having to do with how much I can trust.

There are many question marks surrounding ISIS’s intentions, and everything we can’t determine from what we can see.

This post at the LAT seems to collect in one place many of the questions floating around this episode. For example, when was the video taken? Could it have been shot months ago? How much of the collection was already moved for its protection? And, given the report that a lot of the art — deemed sacrilegious in bright flashing lights — might have been sold by ISIS, how much was the video a) a way to  provide cover for thievery under the guise of moral misdirection? and b) how much was it also an attempt to indicate that the organization remains as potent as ever when the campaign against them suggests they have peaked?

Looking at the video, an interesting visual facet to consider (besides the fact that the group’s method for setting the cultural world back centuries involves not just sledgehammers, but power tools … and, apparently, sneakers of the western designer gods) has to do with how many or few rooms were videoed and more significantly, what artifacts were shown.

Most curiously, as the LAT suggests, is that what was sacrificed for the cameras was the loot the flat earthers literally couldn’t carry away or easily remove intact from the walls.

And then, if you look at the three screenshots at the top of the post, you can see what looks like steel supports or rebar inside of the “artworks” that have been destroyed, suggesting we might be looking at replicas.  (It especially seems the case in the first shot which appears to show many strands of iron.)  If the amount of authentic art in the ISIS video truly is nominal, either to hide the terror group’s true motives and/or because they weren’t handling the real goods, I guess the question is how much the media, again, is enabling this organization and how much (more) we are being manipulated?

(screen grabs via ISIS video)

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