Content type: Project
Credits: Astrid Feringa (Alumna, Non-Linear Narrative Masters, KABK, 2019)
Year: 2019

Astrid Feringa is an artistic researcher and filmmaker based in Arnhem. In her film What they Destroy, We Will Build Again, Feringa examines repair from the lens of digital reconstruction. She examines the practice of digitally reconstructing and 'repairing' architecture that has been intentionally destroyed as a political act and the physical replicas that are made from these digital files. The project positions digital repair as a form of neo-colonial appropriation of heritage and questions the binary narratives of construction and deconstruction and of destruction and repair.

Below is the trailer for the video followed by Feringa’s artist statement. Film and script by Astrid Feringa, co-editing by Claude Nassar and voice-over by Hattie Wade

What they destroy, we will build again - trailer from Astrid Feringa on Vimeo.

What They Destroy, We Will Build Again

In May 2015, IS militants occupied the ancient Syrian excavation site of Palmyra and demolished most of its structures, including the triumphal arch. As ‘an act of defiance’ against this cultural censorship, the British Institute for Digital Archaeology replicated the demolished arch; on 19 April 2016, the life-size scale reconstruction was erected at Trafalgar Square, London, and has since travelled to several cities across the globe.

In his speech during the unveiling ceremony, then London mayor Boris Johnson said, ‘What they destroy, we will build again’, with these words posing a powerful and binary narrative that presents construction as the opposite of deconstruction; inexhaustible, idealistic construction as the solution to inexhaustible, idealistic deconstruction.

But does recreating, placing and unveiling a monument create its own landscape of power, just as much as iconoclastic destruction is creating a [non] landscape of power, both physically and as narrative?

What They Destroy, We Will Build Again is a two-screen video installation that uses the recreated Arch of Palmyra as a case-study to excavate these landscapes of power and to talk about neo-colonial appropriation of heritage in an age of digital reconstruction and contemporary iconoclasm.