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Palmyra: Rising from The Ashes

1
Episodes
60
Minutes
Start of main content
Genre: Factual
Production Year: 2016
Format:

Broadcaster: Sky Arts
Producer: Sky Arts Production Hub

April 2015, the world helplessly assists as ISIS annihilates Nimrud, the legendary capital of the Assyrian Empire. In just a handful of minutes, and in a cloud of dust and debris, the artistic testimony of two thousand years of history vanished. Along with Nimrud, Palmyra and also Ebla were later looted, destroyed, and razed to the ground by the iconoclastic fury of the fighters of the caliphate. The works of art in Syria and Iraq, therefore, become the silent victims of the propaganda mechanism implemented by ISIS. A perverse mechanism that aims at destroying the worlds artistic heritage with the sole purpose of producing and showing to the world these images of destruction. The images of art and culture subjugated to their mad and distorted religious principles. In Palmyra: Rising from the Ashes, a documentary by Sky Arts Production Hub, we will recount how art has always been the main target of wars of conquest, both in the past, as well as in the present. Works of art, images, representations have always possessed a great historical relevance and, at the same time, the greatest power of seduction and fascination. Due to this, they have been victims of a holocaust that has lasted as long as the history of man. From the ancient Egyptian kingdom, to the Roman practice of damnatio memoriae, from books and works of art burned by the Nazis, to the removal of symbols and artefacts in Eastern European countries at the end of the Soviet communist regime. The need to destroy the symbols of a former power - where assimilation is not possible - has been an ever-present need along the journey taken by mankind. To make matters worse, this barbaric practice is justified under a moral order, with the rise of monotheistic religions and the consequent unjustifiable forbiddance to idolize any powerful, meaningful, or historically valuable image or artistic representation. It is not only todays fanatics in ISIS that have destroyed the worlds artistic heritage, in order to magnify Gods greatness. From the Byzantine Empire to the Spanish Inquisition in South America, history has been full of iconoclastic upsurges of Judeo-Christian origin, while the history of Islam is full of works of art depicting man, the wonder of Creation, and even the Prophets life painted on the walls of the palaces of the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates. Therefore, works of art must always be defended, since they not only are the main testimony of the History of a Country, but because they are also what allows for the survival and the preservation of the cultural identity of its people. This is why they should permanently be protected from the violence of war. In Palmyra: Rising from the Ashes, we tell of how Italy has offered the unequalled expertise of its restoration workshops - through international collaborations and institutions such as UNESCO - in order to begin the arduous process of rebuilding three of the most important masterpieces destroyed by ISIS. Under the close supervision of scientists and archaeologists - along with the use of new technologies, such as 3D printing and laser cutting, and human craftsmanship skills - the Lamassu statue, which guards the royal palace of Nimrud, as well as the ceiling of the Temple of Bel in Palmyra with it wonderful bas-reliefs, and the Royal Archives of Ebla, are coming back to life, reborn from the dust in which they were confined by extremism and violence. Each of these masterpieces has a history, a meaning, and a unique nature and, therefore, specific studies were carried out for each one, in order to select and implement the technique that is appropriate for obtaining a reproduction that is absolutely true to the original in shape, material, and size. A technique that is suitable for a resurrection. Therefore, the resurrection of art gives us the right weapons to fight the ongoing war against images, brought on by ISIS. Over the iconography of destruction, we can now superpose images of Rebirth that overwrite its significance, so that the reborn masterpieces may follow the course once imagined by the poet, R. M. Rilke: Works of art are born of those who confront danger, who go to the limit of an experience, to a point beyond which no human can go.

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