Media archeology and translation in the artistic practice: the Nefertiti Hack, by Nora Al-Badri and Jan Nikolai Nelles


“Media archeology and its translation in the artistic practice: the Nefertiti Hack, by Nora Al-Badri and Jan Nikolai Nelles” is an article published in the issue 23 of Artnodes Journal (pages 11 – 18), edited by P. Alsina, A. Rodríguez and V. Hofman. DOI:

Read it in Artnodes Journal. [in catalan]


In one of the most famous wings of the Neues Museum in Berlin, the bust of Nefertiti discovered by German archaeologists has been on display constantly since 2009. The exhibit arrived in the German capital as the result of one of the many thefts that took place at the end of the 19th Century and beginning of the 20th, which provided content for Western museums of the Modernist period. Nowadays, special rules are applied in the room in which the sculpture of Nefertiti is exhibited to restrict the number of spectators who can enter and ban them from taking photographs or recording video. The surveillance of the regulatory standards applied in this kind of museum was brought into question in October 2015 when the artists Nora Al-Badri and Jan Nikolai Nelles hacked the sculpture of Nefertiti. They scanned the bust, created a 3D digital model and posted it online in the public domain. As such, the sculpture has acquired the potential to be reproduced, reinterpreted, transformed, recontextualized and given new meaning.

This article describes Al-Badri and Nelles’s project, known as the Nefertiti Hack, and use it as our starting point to analyse the figure of the project’s creators as archaeologists of the 19th Century museum and translators of the bust of Nefertiti. The artists translate the sculpture from one format to another, acting as agents enabling new meanings to be developed in the future. They used this translation in order to conduct a review of the postcolonial critique of the narratives on which the museums of the 19th Century were built.

Keywords: translation, postcolonialism, media archaeology, digital art, 19th century museum

Agraïments infinits: Pilar Godayol, Nora Al-Badri, Jan Nikolai Nelles, Ana Rodríguez, Artnodes Journal.