November 2023: News Roundup

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October may be coming to an end, but the spooky charm of Halloween still lingers in the air. A Texan museum celebrates the 30th anniversary of Tim Burton’s chilling masterpiece “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” artists grapple with darkness and mystery at the 11th Reykjavik art festival, while the giant sculpture of an Assyrian deity is unearthed from the Iraqi soil. Read up and get your yearly dose of eeriness in this month’s edition of the News Roundup! 

See the Creepy Models Used to Make Tim Burton’s Halloween Classic ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas,’ Now on View in a New Show

The McNay Art Museum celebrates the 30th anniversary of “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” displaying original film set elements in the exhibition “Dreamland” until January 14, 2024. Featuring maquettes and models used during the film’s creation, the exhibit offers insight into the innovative stop-motion techniques and Burton’s unique vision. Jack Skellington and iconic characters’ models, inspired by German Expressionism, are on display. The museum curated a surreal atmosphere, incorporating over 100 pieces from its collection, emphasizing parallels between Burton’s world and various artworks. The exhibition in San Antonio, Texas, immerses visitors in a dreamlike ambiance evoking the whimsical energy of Tim Burton’s creations.

Tim Burton’s Halloween Classic
Tim Burton, Jack Skellington and his dog, Zero, in Jack’s Tower from The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993). Collection of the McNay Art Museum, Gift of Robert L. B. Tobin, TL1994.4.1.3. © Disney © Tim Burton

A 21-Year-Old Student Has Deciphered the First Word from the Herculaneum Scrolls, Charred in the Eruption of Mount Vesuvius

A 21-year-old computer science student, Luke Farritor, won $40,000 after decoding the first word from the Herculaneum Scrolls, revealing “PURPLE” from Greek characters. The scrolls, charred during Mount Vesuvius’ 79 CE eruption, hold 800 texts in a villa’s library, a presumed property of Julius Caesar’s father-in-law. Farritor, part of the Vesuvius Challenge, used machine learning to unveil the text, continuing efforts by researchers like Brent Seales. The aim is to decipher more sections for a $700,000 prize, potentially expanding ancient literature. This breakthrough could unveil lost Greek and Latin texts, significantly impacting classical scholarship by recovering unknown texts exclusive to the Herculaneum Library.

Herculaneum Scrolls
The Greek characters, πορφύραc, revealed as the word “PURPLE,” are among the multiple characters and lines of text that have been extracted. Image courtesy of Vesuvius Challenge.

How an Intergenerational Cohort of Artists at an Icelandic Biennial Grappled with Notions of Darkness 

The 11th edition of the Icelandic biennial “Sequences,” titled “Can’t See,” revolves around darkness, crucial in Icelandic culture, and the imperceptible. Curators from the Estonian Centre for Contemporary Art explore these themes, linking darkness to current global crises. The event showcases over 50 artists, including diverse Icelandic and international names like Precious Okoyomon and Edith Karlson, offering installations and sculptures inspired by Iceland’s geology and folklore. Uniting generations, the biennial juxtaposes traditional and contemporary artworks, providing a comprehensive exploration of the region’s vibrant art scene, and incorporating international artists that complement the local context, creating a rich, boundary-pushing dialogue.

Icelandic Biennial Grappled
Edith Karlson, Can’t See (2023). Exhibition view from Art in the Age of the Anthropocene at Kumu Art Museum, Tallinn. Photo by Joosep Kivimäe.

2,700-Year-Old Guardian Deity Found in Iraq: ‘I’ve Never Unearthed Anything This Big’ 

In Iraq, a remarkable 2,700-year-old Assyrian lamassu, a guardian deity sculpture, was rediscovered in impressive condition. Weighing 19 tons and measuring 12.5 feet, it survived with minimal damage. Discovered in 1992 but reburied due to unrest, it later faced looting, resulting in the statue’s head being removed. Recovered and reassembled, the head resides in the Iraqi Museum. Recently unearthed again, efforts aim to reunite it with the body. The lamassu, originally crafted for Assyrian King Sargon II’s city, serves as a significant archaeological find, capturing the attention of experts due to its size and historical importance.

2,700-Year-Old Guardian Deity
Iraqi security forces stand guard at the site of a newly unearthed Assyrian Lamassu alabaster sculpture discovered at the archaeological site of Khorsabad (also known as Dur-Sharrukin), the former Assyrian capital in the time of Sargon II (721705 BC) in Iraq’s northern Nineveh province. Photo by Zaid Al-Obeidi /AFP via Getty Images.

Climate Protestors Spray Orange Cornstarch on Dinosaur Skeleton at London’s Natural History Museum

Two climate activists were arrested at the Natural History Museum in London for spraying orange cornstarch on a dinosaur skeleton replica, urging the UK government to cease oil and gas projects. Their action disrupted the exhibition, closed for the day, featuring the 26-foot-tall Patagotitan mayorum skeleton from South America. The activists seek attention to the climate crisis, calling for public marches and linking fossil fuels to health issues. This act aligns with global health journals’ recent joint editorial, emphasizing the connection between climate change, biodiversity loss, and public health, occurring amidst legal challenges and a wave of non-violent climate protests globally.

Climate Protestors Spray Orange Cornstarch on Dinosaur Skeleton
Will Stableforth and Steve Fay on the floor of the museum before being arrested on October 26. Image courtesy of Just Stop Oil.



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