Excavation II

As part of the Hammer Museum's Made in L.A. 2016 biennial, Curated by Aram Moshayedi and Hamza Walker

Mixed media installation, dimensions variable; Recovered painted plaster artifacts, deaccessioned Luxor Las Vegas murals, artifacts, and mouldings, Crucifixes produced from remains of film set by Attilio DeGasparis, literature, postcards, cultural materials, remains of surplus materials not used to build film set, Moses' staff and other artifacts on loan from Napa Auto Parts, Guadalupe, CA

video TRT: 00:04:05, Digital video with sound, Bats feasting in the Luxor sky beam, Tracing the narrative camera movements of The Ten Commandments

“If a thousand years from now archaeologists happen to dig beneath the sands of Guadalupe, I hope that they will not rush into print with the amazing news that Egyptian civilization, far from being confined to the valley of the Nile, extended all the way to the Pacific Coast of North America”

-The Autobiography of Cecil B. DeMille (1959)

The project Excavation II centers on the archaeological excavation of the set used in Cecil B. DeMille's 1923 film The Ten Commandments, which was buried in Guadalupe, California. The colossal film set attempted to re-create the ancient Egyptian city of Pi-Ramesses, which some believe to have been the setting for the biblical story of Exodus. Concerned that other directors might use the set before The Ten Commandments was released, DeMille had the set blown up and buried. The project also retraces a series of paintings produced for the Luxor Las Vegas, which combine imagery from DeMille’s film along with other film memories that are interwoven with representations of real sites in Egypt. Through a triangulation of past, present, and possible future iterations, these investigations engage with representations and re-presentations that seek to reclaim a past that never occurred in the first place. Therefore the excavation in its myriad forms concerns itself with becoming fully aware and productively suspicious that history is always being imaginatively figured as it is seemingly being figured out. Excavation II proceeds from an awareness that history is based not on the certitude of concrete facts but rather on the productive unreliability and partiality of lived and invested memories, myths, ideologies, stories, and dreams. The effort therefore moves beyond the recovery and removal of the artifacts in Guadalupe, looking at how these errors, myths, confabulations, and inventions lead us through and beyond facts to their meanings. It recognizes that the dubious reliability of a chain of representations that date back more than three thousand years enhance their historical value in that it allows us to perceive the intentions and desires behind them.

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