Cao Fei’s First Solo US Museum Show Channels a Dystopic Future China (artnet news)

Cao Fei, Still from Haze and Fog.Photo: Courtesy of MoMA.

Cao Fei, Still from Haze and Fog. Photo: Courtesy of MoMA.

 

Cao Fei, La Town: White Street (2014).Photo: Courtesy of MoMA PS1.

Cao Fei, La Town: White Street (2014). Photo: Courtesy of MoMA PS1.

Cao Fei has seen the future of China and it looks like Detroit—after a Hollywood zombie apocalypse. That’s certainly the impression one receives on entering the 38-old artist’s eponymously titled exhibition at MoMA PS1. In this, her first US museum solo outing, she presents several roomfuls of dystopic scenarios that include alienated teens, utopian musings, digital escapism, and post-apocalyptic clichés.

Hailed as among the most innovative Chinese artists working today, Cao has made video and digital technology her media of choice in exploring the lives of China’s citizens—especially its young citizens—as they struggle with raised expectations, falling economic growth rates, and a repressive society that censors the press and the Internet. In Cao’s still and moving image works, her country’s messy prospects are characteristically seen through the prism of China’s 13-to-35-year-old demographic. Unfortunately, global youth culture is just as conservative in the East as it is in the West.

Born in Guangzhou, also known as the “world’s factory,” Cao has experienced China’s economic boom first hand as well as the topsy-turvy paradoxes brought by one party laissez-faire capitalism. Among these is the absurdity of life in a city like Guangzhou, where Zaha Hadid’s futuristic opera house rises and whose pollution has been likened to a nuclear winter. If there is a place that symbolizes China’s dangerous contradictions, it’s Cao’s hometown; in turn, this fact gives the artist’s predictions of a coming Asian rust belt both their bite and urgency.

Cao Fei, Cosplayers Series: A Ming at Home (2004). Image: Courtesy of artist and Vitamin Creative Space.

Cao Fei, Cosplayers Series: A Ming at Home (2004). Image: Courtesy of artist and Vitamin Creative Space.

Cao’s objects, C-prints, standalone videos, and film installations liberally mix together disparate cultural elements to comment on the roiling changes bedeviling Chinese society. Among the more frequently used tropes in her arsenal are Pop aesthetics, social commentary, digital animation, virtual reality, and an evolving preoccupation with youth subcultures. An artist seemingly addicted to the ideal of roleplaying, Fei uses her performances to embark on various analog and digital fantasies that star herself or others. As the artist told artnet News’s Kathleen Massara, she’s insistently in search of what she has termed “resistant power.”

Cao’s exhibition—tidily curated by Klaus Biesenbach, Director, MoMA PS1 and Chief Curator at Large, the Museum of Modern Art—is arrayed around eight rooms on the museum’s first floor and also occupies the VW sponsored dome in the museum’s courtyard. This last space contains an especially raucous multimedia installation: It’s constituent parts include a stage set, fake Chinatown signage, reproductions of hanging birds, musical instruments and the music video stylings of the NYC-based hip-hop group Notorious MSG, one of Cao’s more entertaining collaborators. (Cao held a performance with the hip-hop group this past Sunday.)

Cao Fei

Notorious MSG, with Cao Fei.

According to the museum literature, the band’s three core members currently work at restaurants in New York City’s Chinatown. Their song “Straight out of Canton” captures a great deal of the joy and some of the potential “resistance” Cao ascribes to the group’s all-immigrant appropriation of American hip-hop. However spunky and fun-filled, though, the irony of VW—a company that has admitted to massively evading global emission regulations—sponsoring this portion of the exhibition should be lost on no one.

If Cao’s early films from the 1990s and early 2000s—eight of which are arrayed in a circle on monitors in one of the show’s last room—consist of low-fi abject fictions involving mostly friends and fellow students from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, her ensuing projects feature a combination of social realist portraiture and escapist make-believe.

In 2004, for instance, Cao followed a tribe of Cosplayers around Guangzhou. In her photographs and videos a troupe of young adults lunge, thrust, and pose like American Civil War reenactors in full manga and anime costume. Like other global simulators in similar soul-killing locales—say, Brussels or Albany—they ritually refight their own Gettysburgs amid their city’s ubiquitous gray high-rises and concrete plazas.

Cao Fei, RMB City - A Second Life City Planning (2007).Photo: Courtesy of MoMA PS 1.

Cao Fei, RMB City – A Second Life City Planning (2007). Photo: Courtesy of MoMA PS 1.

A second project that goes all-in with a richly evasive Western subculture is the artist’s embrace of Second Life: Linden Lab’s formerly hot, now not virtual world that companies like Amazon, American Apparel, and Disney rushed to brand in the early 2000s (sales in that virtual universe peaked at $64 million in 2006). From 2007 to 2011, Fei purchased enough alt-real estate to build RMB City, a digital mashup of various global gothams she ghosts with China Tracy, her own Western-looking avatar.

In real life—or at least in the artist’s exhibition—the project is represented by a promotional video, white construction tools, and a broker’s reception desk. In the wall text, Cao describes the effects of her installation: “It’s perhaps no longer important to draw the line between the virtual and the real, as the border between the two has been blurred.” The reaction of hardline Chinese officials to this fanciful fairytale is easy to fathom: From Cao Fei’s mouth to Xi Jinping’s ears.

But not all of Cao’s elaborate artworks sound the same naïve fugitive note. In 2006, for instance, she took advantage of a residence in a Siemens lighting factory to juxtapose the daydreams of workers with their lives as they are actually lived inside a manufacturing plant. The ensuing project, Whose Utopia?, materializes these workers aspirations through photographs, a newspaper titled “Utopia Daily,” and a video by the same title. In Cao’s film a prima ballerina in wings and a fuzzy white halo dances amid shop machinery, an older gentleman slides silkily around the factory floor to Chinese pop music, and a young man acts out the dream of being a rock guitarist. Extravagant fantasies all, they are saved from mere amusement by one true thing. They are located inside a place of actual exploitation.

Cao Fei, My Future is Not a Dream No.2 (2006). Courtesy of Hara Museum of Contemporary Art. © Cao Fei / Deutsche Bank Collection.

Cao Fei, My Future is Not a Dream No.2 (2006). Courtesy of Hara Museum of Contemporary Art. © Cao Fei / Deutsche Bank Collection.

Cao’s most recent project, La Town, on the other hand, falls back on Hollywood boilerplate to depict the kind of post-apocalyptic imaginings that animate mass entertainment vehicles like HBOs The Walking Dead and MILFs Versus Zombies. The film, which opens Cao’s current survey, enlists 3D dioramas to present a Breugel-like portrait of civilization struck by an unspecified disaster. As such, it begs for something more specific, less generic, more critical and less dependent on Western clichés—including copycat subcultures—to convincingly make its dystopic point. Despite some inventiveness, the first US museum show by this fast-rising Chinese art star invites adult skepticism. Escapism is not resistance, and fantasy is not utopia.

A Photographer Documents the Fantasy World of Six Shut-In Brothers (Hyperallergic)

by Carey Dunne on March 28, 2016 original article here.

Dan Martensen, from ‘Wolves Like Us: Portraits of the Angulo Brothers’ (2015) (all images courtesy Damiani and Dan Martensen)

Dan Martensen, from ‘Wolves Like Us: Portraits of the Angulo Brothers’ (2015) (all images courtesy Damiani and Dan Martensen)

For 14 years, the six Angulo brothers were locked away from society in a Lower East Side housing project. Their paranoid father forbade them, along with their mother and sister, from leaving the apartment. Movies provided their only window to the outside world: they learned almost everything they knew from obsessively watching films like Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and The Dark Knight, and they spent their days reenacting scenes and violent, movie-inspired fantasies.

Last year, the family went from anonymous shut-ins to cult stars after the release of The Wolfpack, a documentary by Crystal Moselle that told the story of the brothers’ isolated upbringings and eventual journey to freedom. The astonishing documentary, which won the U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival last year, led to the brothers’ integration into the outside world — for the first time in their lives, they now have friends, jobs, and Facebook pages; one has a girlfriend.

Back in 2010, Moselle met these long-haired, leather-clad teenagers on the street during one of their first furtive ventures outside their apartment. Fascinated with their tale, she introduced this “Wolfpack” to a photographer friend, Dan Martensen.

For five years, every few months, Martensen photographed the boys in all their masked, superhero-costumed glory. The boys invited him to their three-bedroom Lower East Side apartment in which they grew up, giving him a tour of the imaginary realm they’d created to escape stifling confinement. Shortly thereafter, Martensen invited the Wolfpack to his house in upstate New York. There, “the boys experienced nature – wading through shallow creeks, running across fields – for the first time beyond the frame of their television.”

Dan Martensen, from ‘Wolves Like Us: Portraits of the Angulo Brothers’ (2015)

Dan Martensen, from ‘Wolves Like Us: Portraits of the Angulo Brothers’ (2015)

Wolves Like Us: Portraits of the Angulo Brothers, a new book from Damiani, compiles Martensen’s striking photographs of the brothers’ fantasy world and their first ventures out of their apartment. “In taking these images, my desire was to the reveal the true character of the boys – to give voice to their wildly beautiful imagination – not necessarily to lay bare their past, nor focus upon where they are from,” Martensen writes. Instead of revealing the boys’ backstory, or digging into the reality behind their elaborate imagination, as the film does, the photographs play into this fantasy and give it a stage. Martensen largely shot the boys at their most performative, in Joker masks and Batman suits, aiming cardboard guns at the camera. “As years of confinement finally fade from their psyche, I’ve watched this band of brothers, this ‘Wolfpack’ grow, each becoming in their respective ways, characters of their own making,” Martensen reflects. His photographs suggest that, even if they’re more unusual, these action movie-inspired characters are no less real than the so-called conventional identities any mainstream individual creates and performs on a daily basis.

Dan Martensen, from ‘Wolves Like Us: Portraits of the Angulo Brothers’ (2015)

All photos below from Dan All photos by Dan Martensen, from ‘Wolves Like Us: Portraits of the Angulo Brothers’ (2015)

2434-1a_1-768x964 2434-1b_21-copy-768x967 2434-3b_18-copy-768x968 2434-4b_21-copy-768x604 2434-7a_10-copy-768x602 2434-9_25-copy-768x543 2629-11_6-copy-768x951 2629-14_9-copy-768x6143014-5-13-copy-768x560 3014-9a_1-copy-768x980 3014-12a_10-copy-768x622 3014-13a_4-copy-768x613 3014-16A_5-copy-768x919 3014-17a_3-copy-768x610 3014-33a_8-copy-768x948  3883-19-18-copy-768x538

How a Book on Nihilism Ended Up on Jay-Z’s Back and Glenn Beck’s Show (Critical Theory)

Imagine this: You, like many of our readers, work tirelessly to write volumes on subjects that only a handful people will read. Unless your name is Judith Butler or Slavoj Zizek, chances are that nobody cares about your latest thoughts on Friedrich Nietzsche.

But then one day, you notice a model wearing a shirt adorned with your book title. Then you’re casually wasting your time on YouTube and Jay-Z is now wearing a jacket also adorned with your book.

That’s exactly what happened to Eugene Thacker, a Media Studies professor at The New School University, who wrote a book on horror and nihilism called “In the Dust of this Planet” in 2011 published by Zero Books. While the book received generally positive reviews on various message boards, it was anything but a New York Time’s Bestseller. And then – it was everywhere.

It started when some words eerily reminiscent of Thacker’s shows up in HBO’s hit show “True Detective.”

“I’m what’s called a pessimist,” the show’s main character proclaims. “We are creatures that should not exist by natural law. We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self, a secretion of sensory experience and feeling programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody when in fact everybody is nobody.”

When asked what inspired the main character, writer Nic Pizzolatto cited, among other books, “In the Dust of this Planet.”

After that, the clothes showed up. Icelandic artist Gardar Eide Einarsonn collaborated with clothing brand BLK DNM to put out fashion with “bold messages.”

Next came the celebrities. Lily Allen posted this to her Instagram and this shot showed up in Jay-Z and Beyonce’s video for “Run.”

https://i2.wp.com/www.critical-theory.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/jay-z-dust-of-this-planet.png

NPR’s “Radiolab,” investigated the matter, talking to both Thacker and Simon Critchley, who explained that nihilism has always been a staple of counter-culture. They even talked to Jay-Z’s costume designer, who went through her rationale for picking the jacket.

A costume, she argues, is “like a conversation.” That conversation, in the Jay-Z video was that this man, a “sovereign,” had the world on his back and acted as if he was completely unaware or, to quote the Radiolab host, “didn’t care.”

To top everything off – Glenn Beck discovered the NPR podcast and quickly declared a liberal plot to disseminate eugenics and nihilism via pop culture.

Beck dedicated over 8 minutes of his show back in September to the topic of “nihilism” and how conservatives need to be up in arms about it.

Of course, Beck in his segment could never admit to listening to something run by NPR, and is quick to note our tax-dollars funded the program. Luckily, Beck’s producer listens so he doesn’t have to.

Thacker, by the way, had never heard of Beck, which I find utterly confounding.

There’s a flurry of absurd claims in Beck’s diatribe: Thacker works at a school founded by progressive educators who invented eugenics, or something. Beck was probably referring to New School founder and  progressive John Dewey who never endorsed genetics, and was even arguably against it.

“When you take Darwin,” Beck continues, “and couple it with nihilism and then progressivism you can kill people if it’s for the good of the collective.” Note, “good of the collective” and “nihilism” in hilarious juxtaposition. Beck then posits this as the logic of Nazi genocide – a ridiculous claim  rebuked by even Walter Sobchack when he noted: “Say what you will about the tenets of National Socialism, dude, at least it’s an ethos.”

Not to mention that The New School’s second spiritual founding happened with The New School in Exile by a bunch of academics trying to escape Nazi persecution. But I digress.

“Even if you are a control freak, one thing you learn when you write a book and send it out is that it has a life of its own,” Thacker said. “It’s open to interpretation.”

So is there a liberal plot to spread nihilism? No, not the least because most radical scholars detest both liberal and conservative politics (I can’t speak for Thacker), and because Nietzsche is more often-than-not taken out of context to justify conservative racism. For many philosophers, being taken up by pop culture is more a sign of defeat than a cause of celebration.

When I reached out to Thacker, he didn’t have much to say.

“I suppose that more people have worn my book than have read it,” he remarked.

Do Outsider Artists Really Exist? (artnet news)

Anthony Haden-Guest, Friday, January 22, 2016 original article here.

Joe Coleman, Liz Renay (2010). Acrylic on found triptych.Image: Courtesy of http://joecoleman.com.

Joe Coleman, Liz Renay (2010). Acrylic on found triptych. Image: Courtesy of joecoleman.com.

Days before the Outsider Art Fair opened in New York, artist Joe Coleman was on a panel at NeueHouse, a venue on East 25th which describes itself alarmingly as a “machine for creating.” The supposed theme was Killing Time: The Chronology of Creativity, which sounded enticing, but Coleman, black-bearded and glittery-waist-coated, was in tip-top form, so the discussion—like the screen behind the panelists and the questions from the audience in front of them—focused soon enough on Outsider art.

This is a classification which Coleman went on to denounce as condescending. “I love Henry Darger and Adolf Wofli,” he told the audience. “They are great artists. They aren’t Outsider artists. There’s only good art and bad art.”

Nobody took him up on this. I admire Joe Coleman’s work enormously so I’ll engage with the thorny topic here and now.

There’s a famous story that illuminates the relationship between the Modernists and Outsider artists and it comes from the very beginnings of Modernism. Picasso reportedly bought a canvas by Henri Rousseau in a Paris flea market possibly as early as 1900. In 1908 he threw a banquet for Rousseau which has been described in sometimes hilarious detail. The coats were flung into Juan Gris’s studio, Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas were around, there was prodigious drinking; apparently Marie Laurencin got so naughty that Guillaume Apollinaire had to send her home.

It’s clear that Picasso and the young Modernists thought the retired toll-taker was somewhat a holy fool, and, yes, they were condescending, but it’s also clear that they hugely admired  his work for its authenticity, its visual inventiveness. And that, as with the African masks they were also looking at, had raw energy, just the energy they needed for their project of dynamiting the salon. (The Picasso banquet was a huge boost to Rousseau’s career as well.)

Henry Darger, Untitled (They are chased again however, and have to give up for want of breath). Photo: Andrew Edlin Gallery.

Henry Darger, Untitled (They are chased again however, and have to give up for want of breath). Photo: Andrew Edlin Gallery.

Outsider art still has that special energy. You could see it, an  unmistakeable difference, in the images onscreen at the NeueHouse. Artists like Darger, Wofli and yes, Coleman are different from mainstreamers, but not just because they are schizophrenics (as was Wofli) or have bizarre drives (as most certainly did Darger). Outsider artists are not ‘outside’ just in the sense of being untaught, or disadvantaged, but because they and their work operate outside the Great Game of the art world. And, most important, unlike almost all professional artists, who turn out a fair amount of product—yes, I do include you, Picasso—they mean every thing they do, every single piece they make.

Which is precisely why Outsider art is a focus of such interest right now, a time when a whole new cast of slick derivative tricksters is dominating the artscape. Yes, folks, there’s a whole new Salon out there. That is why prices of the great Outsiders are skyrocketing, and it is why Coleman is perfectly correct in his belief that they belong with the other greats. And they will, in time, join them. Which is also, by the way, why we are seeing a surge of faux, unfelt Outsiderism into the marketplace. But that is an old, old, always depressing story.

Prehistoric Caves May Contain Oldest Paintings of Volcanic Eruptions (Hyperallergic)

by Claire Voon on January 25, 2016 original article here.

plos-768x575

L: General view of the Megaloceros panel showing the spray signs (photo credit D. Genty); R: Detail of the Megaloceros panel (photos V. Feruglio-D. Baffier) (all images © 2016 Nomade et al, used under CC BY 4.0)

Since its discovery in 1994, the Chauvet-Pont d’Arc cave in southern France has been a rich site for researchers to study prehistoric art, featuring early paintings of both animals and humans on its walls. Now the ancient site — which in 2014 received UNESCO World Heritage Site status — may also present the oldest depiction of a volcanic eruption discovered yet, according to a study recently published by a team of French scientists in the journal PLoS One.

“Our work provides the first evidence of an intense volcanic activity between 40 and 30 ka in the Bas-Vivarais region,” researchers write in the study, “and it is very likely that humans living in the Ardèche river area witnessed one or several eruptions.”

Likely finger-painted with red and white pigments, the paintings resemble little fountains — “spray-shape signs,” as the team describes them. They appear on the walls of various galleries in the cave; one appears to emerge from the head of a Megaloceros, which was later drawn in charcoal and partially covers the abstract pattern. The researchers, comparing the age of the symbols with dates of local volcanic activity, believe the cave dwellers were responding to an eruption that occurred approximately 36,000 years ago. The closest volcano would have stood in the Bas-Vivarais region, a little over 20 miles northwest of the cave.

armenia-768x372

Çatalhöyük mural painting in Turkey, considered the oldest depiction of a volcanic eruption, dated from the 8th/7th millennium BCE

“There’s no way anybody could prove that it is a volcano that they depicted, but for us it’s the hypothesis which is the most probable,” Sebastien Nomade, who led the study, told Nature.

spray

Petroglyphs depicting the Porak volcano eruption in the Syunik region of Armenia

If the scientists’ claims are true, the paintings would predate the nearly 9,000-year-old Çatalhöyük mural in Turkey, previously identified in the early 1960s by archaeologist James Mellaart as the earliest representation of such an eruption. Another known depiction is found in southern Armenia, where a group of six petrogylphs dating to the 5th millennium BCE show eruptions of the Porak volcano. The Chauvet image would also predate Pliny the Younger’s famous description of the 79 CE Vesuvias eruption.

“I think they make a pretty good case that it’s potentially a depiction of the kind of volcano that one sees on the landscape,” as Michael Petraglia, a University of Oxford archaeologist (unaffiliated with the study) told Nature. “Maybe there’s more of this out there than we have realized.”

New Evidence Emerges Authenticating Lost Gospel Mentioning Jesus Was Married (artnet news)

by Sarah Cascone, Tuesday, August 25, 2015 original article here.

The Gospel of Jesus's Wife.  Photo: Harvard Divinity School.

The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife. Photo: Harvard Divinity School.

New scientific tests indicate that the controversial Gospel of Jesus’s Wife, which suggests Jesus might not have been celibate, could be authentic.

The key line from the papyrus scrap reads “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife . . . she will be able to be my disciple.'” Elsewhere, the Coptic text mentions Mary, possibly in reference to Mary Magadalene, famously recast as Jesus’s wife in Dan Brown’s art historical thriller The Da Vinci Code, which spawned many a conspiracy theory.

When the manuscript came to light thanks to Harvard University professor Karen King in 2012, it was met with a great deal of skepticism. Roughly the size of a business card, the papyrus scrap was widely dismissed—the Vatican was among the detractors—as a modern forgery.

According to the Harvard Theological Review Journal, the papyrus and the ink are about 1,200 years old (it’s believed to be dated to sometime between the sixth and the ninth centuries. (Harvard is also home to the recently-discovered Gospel of the Lots of Mary.)

The main evidence against the discovery is the similarity of the text to a fragment of a rare copy of the Bible’s Gospel of John, written in Lycopolitan, the same obscure Coptic dialect used in the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife.

The two manuscripts have several of the exact same phrases and line breaks, and some suspect both are modern forgeries, especially given that Lycopolitan went extinct 1,500 years ago.

“The two Coptic fragments clearly shared the same ink, writing implement and scribal hand. The same artisan had created both essentially at the same time,” argued Christian Askeland, a research associate with the Institute for Septuagint and Biblical Research in Wuppertal, Germany, in a recent paper in the New Testament Studies journal.

The Gospel of Jesus's Wife compared to an online version of an ancient Coptic copy of the Gospel of John.  Photo: Harvard Divinity School.

The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife compared to an online version of an ancient Coptic copy of the Gospel of John. Photo: Harvard Divinity School.

John Yardley, a senior research scientist at Columbia University, disputes these findings. “In our first exploration, we did state that the inks used for the two documents of interest were quite different. The more recent results do confirm this observation strongly,” he told Live Science.

For King’s part, she argues that both Coptic texts could be ancient copies of earlier texts, and that the similarity of the line breaks is coincidental.

She also discounts any resemblance to the early Christian text the Gospel of Thomas, including the inclusion of a typo found in an online version of the text. King contends that ancient scribes were not infallible, and made grammatical errors.

The papyrus’s current owner has not shared his identity with the world, but the provenance he has provided remains in dispute.

The owner claims to have purchased the fragment in 1999 from a German man named Hans-Ulrich Laukamp, who acquired it in Potsdam, in East Germany, in 1963. Laukamp died in 2002. Those who knew him say he never collected antiquities, and, as a West Berlin resident, he could never have visited Potsdam at the time he is said to have purchased the gospel.

King claims to have photocopies of signed papers confirming the owner’s account. If compared to confirmed instances of Laukamp’s signature on publicly available notarized documents, these contracts could verify the current owner’s account.

Hans-Ulrich Laukamp's signature for September 1997.

Hans-Ulrich Laukamp’s signature for September 1997.

For now, the Gospel’s authenticity is still very much up for debate.

“At this point, when discussions and research are ongoing, I think it is important, however difficult, to stay open regarding the possible dates of the inscription and other matters of interpretation,” said King in a recent letter to the Biblical Archaeological Review.

See These Amazing Images of Easter Island Statues With Bodies–Who Knew? (artnet news)

by Sarah Cascone, Friday, May 1, 2015 original article here.

A fully excavated Easter Island head.  Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

A fully excavated Easter Island head. Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Easter Island’s monumental stone heads are well-known, but there’s more to the story: all along, the sculptures have secretly had torsos, buried beneath the earth.

Excavations on the Easter Island head.  Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Excavations on the Easter Island head. Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Archaeologists have documented 887 of the massive statues, known as moai, but there may up as many as 1,000 of them on the island (see Rather Weighty Easter Island Sculpture Travels 200 Miles To Be Star of Manchester Museum Exhibition). Most were carved from volcanic rock between 1100 and 1680.

While the island is a popular tourist destination, the statue’s sheer size certainly discourages the type of theft experienced at other historic archaeological sites (see US Tourists Steal Pompeii Artifact and Egypt’s “Indiana Jones” Zahi Hawass Questioned Over Pyramid Theft).

More Easter Island excavations.  Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

More Easter Island excavations. Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

The Easter Island bodies were news to us, but apparently this is not a recent discovery. Photographs of the statues undergoing excavation began circulating in May of 2012, and Live Science asserts that archaeologists have actually known about the bodies since archaeological research on the island, located 2,000 miles west of Chile, began over a century ago, in 1914.

An excavated statue on Easter Island.  Photo: Greg Downing.

An excavated statue on Easter Island. Photo: Greg Downing.

“There are about 150 statues buried up to the shoulders on the slope of a volcano, and these are the most famous, most beautiful and most photographed of all the Easter Island statues,” Easter Island Statue Project director Jo Anne Van Tilburg told Live Science. “This suggested to people who had not seen photos of (other unearthed statues) that they are heads only.”

It was photographs of Tilburg’s 2010 excavations of two of the statues’ buried bodies that sparked online interest in the missing halves of these ancient sculptures. The images attracted so much interest when people started emailing them in 2012 that the Easter Island Statue Project’s website crashed under a rush of three million hits.

More Easter Island excavations.  Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

More Easter Island excavations. Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Tilburg’s work, which began in 2000, marked the first time the moai were excavated by a scientific team that thoroughly documented the process. “It’s always important to get beneath the surface of things,” she told Fox News.

Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.