At the beginning of 2016, two artists made a 3D scan of the Nefertiti bust in the Neues Museum in Berlin and uploaded it to the Internet. It caused an international fuss, with people wondering if they truly scanned the bust of Nefertiti themselves, and if so, with what tools? Did they scan a replica? Or did they hack the servers of the museum to steal the 3D scan? Does it even matter if the scan is fake, real or fake for real?
The artists, Nora Al-Badri and Jan Nikolai Nelles, claimed to have secretly scanned one of the most famous and disputed cultural artifacts in the world with a Microsoft Xbox 360 Kinect Sensor. For years, Egypt has been asking Germany to return Nefertiti to its country of origin. The bust of Nefertiti represents all stolen and looted artifacts from all over the world, acts that are still taking place today. While a lot of archaeological artifacts originate from the Global South, a vast number of important objects can be found in Western museums and private collections.
NefertitiHack is an artistic intervention that questions singularity, originality and ownership of artifacts of other cultures. According to the artists, we should face the fact that colonial structures continue to exist today and still produce their inherent symbolic struggles. “With the data leak as a part of this counter narrative we want to activate the artifact, to inspire a critical re-assessment of today’s conditions and to overcome the colonial notion of possession in Germany” they explained.
Apparently, the scan was too detailed to have been created with a Kinect sensor. The artists never revealed their source, but it is suspected that the data was stolen from the museum’s server. All the fuss and speculation contributed to the artistic intervention that is an indictment to western museums. Museums often have highly detailed scans of cultural artefacts that they refuse to reveal to the public, making museums repositories of secret knowledge. Cultural memory cannot be owned, it belongs to all of us. And why should we even worship the original while we have all the ready-to-print-remixes on the Internet?
NeffertitiHack is featured in the 3D Additivist Cookbook. You can download the 3D Additivist Cookbook online in 3D PDF, including the 3D files to print as many Nefertitis as you like!