The Met is the Matrix

03.18.10 Marina Galperina

metThe New York Times is drooling over the Met’s innovative 3D imagining practices. It’s not the future any more, not for a while now. I’m worried. The 3D imagining pioneers headed by the Met’s “resident futurist” Ron Street, are busy replicating the museum’s ancient treasures, translating microscopic details into digital bits.

Advancing new ways of restoration and preservation allows not only for keeping a perfect virtual model of historical artifacts, but physical duplication of works with unprecedented accuracy.

The article suggests that this improved reproduction technique could help with ongoing deceptions like that one in Rome — replicas substitute nearly all classical works on public display, with the real ones hidden away. Who would want another Rome the Theme Park?

The possibility of getting up in all the crevices of “5,000-year-old deer stones in Mongolia” or Venus de Milo without harming the work sounds nifty. Niftier yet, if international museums on the bandwagon figure out a way to charge virtual admission (for them, not us.)

There’s something worrisome about all this, be you a distopian-fantasy spouting cyberpunk or a lyddite-like museum-goer. Are digital scans going to become the latest capital in hoarded art collections of the rich? Is the new greatest art theft a hacked download? If physical museums are virtually outmoded, where will sad-looking faux-intellectuals meet each other to reproduce? With life, the universe and everything served up on the monitor, is the next step of evolution going to sprout chair legs from our asses? |NYT|