Akeroyd Collection


Jonathan Horowitz, Rome, 2006

Rome is a single-channel video work that weaves together strands from documentaries about ancient Rome, Benito Mussolini and the making of the movie Ben-Hur. The editing leads the viewer into a kind of speculative fiction whereby the stories, biographies and political impulses of the central characters are interchangeable and deliberately obfuscated from a sense of chronology or linear time and history. The story of Ben-Hur is retold on stage and screen, culminating in the 1959 CinemaScope epic, while Mussolini rebuilds the city of Rome in a modern vision of the classical empire under Julius Caesar. The film begins with a narrator describing how the ancient Romans’ incredible audacity, thirst for power, and intimate emotions have left a mark on contemporary society in more ways than any other civilisation. This is recounted while interspersed footage of the Hollywood sets of Ben-Hur, the political gatherings of the Fascist Dictator and images and busts of Caesar himself are montaged together and overlayed in a visual cacophony. ‘Even their faults are evidence of their humanity’ is heard, as we see crowds cheer Mussolini for his excessive, neo-classical architecture so typical of his fascistic vision of Italy.

The work formed part of Horowitz’s exhibition, Rome, at Sadie Coles HQ in 2006. The gallery housed a Modernist monumental arch, which through its (re)construction brought into focus the highly politicized role of Rome’s architecture, from the epic grandeur of its classical foundations through to Mussolini’s reprisal of this legacy of monument building.The video simultaneously highlights the pivotal role of architecture in the government’s aspirations to stamp values on the city while also demonstrating how the hijacking of visual signs become the toolkit of worldbuilding. The task of the filmmaker, politician, and ideologue alike, is one of storyteller, their success is contingent on how well they inscribe a population inside their vision. Horowitz takes received values and images and undermines them. In the process, he forces us to reassess how they are constructed in the first place.

MediumProjection from a digital source
Duration15 minutes and 39 seconds
Edition1 of 5