The Austin Chronicle

The 24 Hour Roman Reconstruction Project

Was too built in a day!

By Robert Faires, September 25, 2009, Arts

At midnight, here come Romulus and Remus to construct the huts that will kick-start the Eternal City. When next midnight tolls, in swarm the Visigoths to trash the town. And in the 24 hours between, small cardboard and wood buildings will be constructed and destroyed, representing in miniature the rise and fall of Rome, from its legendary founding 750 years before Christ's birth to the Roman Empire's last gasp 1,163 years later. The 24 Hour Roman Reconstruction Project is the brainchild of Los Angeles artist Liz Glynn, who got tired of hearing pessimists discussing the reconstruction of Iraq or New Orleans trot out the bromide that you-know-where wasn't built in a day and decided to prove them wrong. And she did – twice, actually: at the alternative space Machine Project in Los Angeles and at the New Museum in New York as part of the exhibition "The Generational: Younger than Jesus."

Glynn leads her third construction of Rome this weekend in Austin, in the front gallery of Arthouse at the Jones Center. In a significant scaling-up of the project – a Texas-sizing, in Arthouse's words – every space except for the offices will be given over to a re-creation of the seven hills and the city that rose on them, with more events and activities than have been part of the project before. As the clock moves forward, the project will track through Roman history – 12mid-5:02am, archaic Rome; 5:03am-2:27pm, the early republic; 2:27pm-12mid, the empire – with specific events to illustrate and inform the period, including a 3am lecture on the arch by designer J.M. Tate, a 7:30am performance by experimental band No Mas Bodas to mark the Gallic invasion, a midday pizza party for the destruction of Carthage, a match by the UT wrestling team (2:30pm), Grammy-winner Danny Levin fiddling as Rome burns (about 4:45pm), William Meadows performing a musical work to honor the development of concrete (5pm), and performance artist Silky Shoemaker ushering in the Christian era as the emperor Constantine (9:50pm). There will be a workshop on pouring concrete, readings of texts by Roman authors, more food (French breakfast! German snacks! Bacchanalian feasting!), and, throughout the 24 hours, dozens of volunteers crafting temples, monuments, bridges, arenas, houses, and other historical structures from recycled materials. And come midnight again, noise band Waco Girls will provide the soundtrack to the destruction of Rome – accomplished by participants stomping on the faux buildings.

If it sounds like a big blowout, it is – one calculated to coincide with Arthouse's own construction project, the long-anticipated renovation of its upper floor and rooftop, set to begin this fall. The idea came from curator Elizabeth Dunbar. "I did a studio visit with Liz in the summer of 2008 and talked to her then about presenting this as one of our final projects in the current building," she says. "Obviously, the ideas of building, destruction, and rebuilding resonated with our building project. Plus, it would be a great way to go out with a bang, so people would remember us during the downtime. Not to mention that I am very interested in producing projects that cross disciplines and which get the public involved in a participatory way."

The 24 Hour Roman Reconstruction Project takes place Saturday, Sept. 26, 12mid-12mid, at Arthouse at the Jones Center, 700 Congress. For more information, call 453-5312 or visit

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