Destruction of culture – its importance in history

The creation of art is important but so too is the destruction of art and public culture.

Destruction has been part of Art History for millennia – from the Egyptian, Greek and Roman empires to the current bombing of UNESCO sites in Syria. Its a political statement and a show of superiority. Emperors would chip off the propaganda of their predecessors and replace with their own. This was done in painting, architecture and literature.

A few examples…

  • King James Bible – James I commissioned a re-writing of the Bishop’s Bible that was eventually published in 1611. It conformed to the growing want for puritan worship that stemmed from a backlash against the liberal protestant reform of the 1540s. The King James Bible has now become the basis for modern versions of the bible.
  • Iconoclasm (1640s) – Carried out by the self-styled Iconoclast General, William Dowsing, the destruction of religious (catholic) iconography scoured the last hints of Catholicism from East England, Essex and East Anglia. This left the affected areas primed for the witch-hunts lead by William Hopkins.
  • ‘Degenerate’ Art – As part of the Nazi propaganda machine those artists that were considered ‘degenerate’ – either because of their religion, gender, sexuality or a multitude of other perceived social threats. The works were exhibited as a warning to Aryan Germans and were then publicly destroyed. The works of Dali, Kandinsky, Miro and many others were lost.
  • Buddhas of Bamyan – These huge effigies were once a major religious and cultural site within Afghanistan – a reflection of the widespread Buddhism and many different religions present in the country. With the advent of the Taliban the Buddhas were swiftly destroyed and this clearly set out the Taliban’s extremist views towards religious difference with Afghani culture.    
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