With their vast access to knowledge, today’s museums have become our modern-day cathedrals, not only concerned with historic moments, but also with ideas; notions of what the world is, and how it should be framed. They play an important, and often unquestioned role in constructing ideologies and interpreting cultural identities.
In the essay Travels in Hyperreality, philosopher, historian and aesthetician Umberto Eco argued that the museum diorama is potentially “more vivid, more effective” than the original artefact, achieving an “illusion of absolute reality”.* Larkin’s photographs of dioramas, reduced-scale reproductions, and audio-visual displays reflect these vivid scenes with a distant gaze, highlighting the ambiguous spaces where notions of fact and fiction can fuse, and the harsh reality of conflict can become simplified.
Past Perfect (2008 - 2016) explores the aesthetic choices taken by museums as they negotiate and build meaning through the curation of artefacts and memory. Working throughout Cuba, Egypt, Israel, UK, USA and Vietnam, all countries with unique relationships to their military histories, Larkin brings a new perspective on how our violent pasts are preserved and presented today. Past Perfect follows Larkin’s previous projects Tales from the City of Gold and Cairo Divided, continuing to focus on the legacies of our past and how they intersect with present-day societies.
* Umberto Eco, Travels in Hyperreality, Picador, 1987.