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PEDRO CAMPOS ROSADO
12.01.06/12.02.06


Le Corps Human (Penis & Vagina) - Cuyer et Kuhff
graphite, color pencil and collage, 24 cm x 54 cm - 2005






THE TEMPLE OF DENDUR AS A SIMULACRUM

“Most European museums are, among other things, memorials of the rise of nationalism and imperialism.  Every capital city must have its own museum of painting, sculpture, etc., devoted in part to exhibiting the loot gathered by monarchs in conquest of other nations.” (John Dewey, Art as experience, 1934.)
I presume that this view encompasses also the Metropolitan Museum of Art, even thought it is not “loot” gathered in conquests but rather acquired by means of other forms of power.
The Temple of Dendur is a particularly good example of this celebration of power as it is placed in a space that was specifically designed for exhibiting this temple, in contrast with most other artifacts that are exhibited in a way that the sheer quantity is more important than any single piece – this artifact has been elected almost as an ex-libris of the museum, as the Empire State Building is to New York City.
Besides the fact that Egyptian artifacts “were not designed for exhibition and contemplation” (Collingwood), when this temple is presented in such a fashion – a very large empty space, inside a “house”, with a fake L-shape pond (modernistic), a glass wall through which Central Park can be seen, etc. – it seems obvious that the intention is not for the viewer to perceive/experience this artifact in terms of the culture that produced it.  Rather, it is a celebration of our own culture, to which the Temple of Dendur lends credibility and authority.  That is, what is really important is not the temple but the mise-en-scène in which it is placed.
So much care has been taken in this display that other artifacts have been placed sparsely, in the same space in such a way as to create an “atmosphere appropriate” to “Old Egypt”.  More important, in a relative discreet way, photographs of the Temple of Dendur in its original site, half-submerged in water and with graffiti on its walls, are displayed, implying that it has been “saved” from being ultimately destroyed.
In fact, the Temple of Dendur was destroyed, forever, long ago; its physical presence in the Metropolitan Museum of Art is just a simulacrum.

Pedro Campos Rosado