Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Techno-Tut: The Golden Age?

We were lucky enough to have the King Tut blockbuster come through Philadelphia. There was much hype in the paper (for whatever that’s worth) about the integration of technology used throughout the exhibit, so I took my class to the show with high hopes of seeing something fresh and edgy. Word was this was to be a 21st century art exhibit that would not be such an educational bore (I assume like all the others?) It may be worth noting that the designers of the event are a production team whose last gig was putting on shows for Janet Jackson - I was certainly not expecting lasers or wardrobe malfunctions, but was prepared to be dazzled.

Your first experience of the show is more Disneyland than Educational – those lucky enough to have a $30+ ticket in hand are shuffled through a series of roped chutes and ramps until the gatekeeper permits exactly fifty bodies to pass into the exhibit at one time. Shuttled into a dark room you are greeted by security personnel, rather than by an Egyptian scholar or educator – you know the “educational bore” type. The security person treats you like you are waiting to go into the fun house, they do some shtick, ask you to turn off your mobile phones, runs down a list of rules and finally cue a three-minute introductory video on three plasma screens high on the far wall narrated by Omar Sharif! I have nothing against the man, but it had a hokey theme park feel that set a bad tone for the exhibition.

The show was populated by room upon room of traditional-looking museum cases replete with Tut artifacts, more anthropological than art historical. The introductory text projected on the walls between the rooms was interesting but there really was no evidence of anything resembling a technological display until the final room of the show where the body of Tut was projected in Hologram on a broad surface made to resemble a sarcophagus. I tried to be amazed as the Hologram displayed one after another projected layers of King Tut from the outer coffin to the body itself, but effect was so underwhelming I found that many people overlooked the display all together.

Overall, coupled with the disappointment of not seeing the death mask Death Mask that seemed to be displayed on all of the posters (it was actually a close up of a 6” coffinette that happened to look just like the mask), the show was a bit of a yawner and certainly not the 21st century groundbreaking show I have been waiting for.