The necessity and impossibility of Art after September 11th
Proposal/Computer simulation of 3,000 pieces of
paper, sticks of charcoal and erasers.
Visiting New York a few weeks after the events of September 11th I was
hit by the way in which art had emerged out of the galleries and had taken
its rightful place amongst the people and on the streets.
All across the city shrines and memorials had been set up outside of hospitals
and fire stations; they were public art installations without doubt. It
is as if the people of New York faced with events for which language could
not do justice, turned both to imagery and the sense of community to be
found in shared collaborative works. The art shrines are produced out
of an understanding that art is something vital, that art, the shrine,
the ritual are all connected, are alive and in flux in a way that the
gallery system with it's celebrities and networks and ridiculous prices
has long forgotten.
Strangely at the same time as an artist I was wrestling with self doubt
about the role of art at times like this, and a good friend, a painter,
experienced his first art block and was unable to produce work for a number
of weeks. It was these conflicting emotions that provided the initial
idea for this project.
In addition to this however I was shocked at the speed with which the
3000 victims of the attacks were forgotten. The discourse moved quickly
away from them to debates about architecture, terror, war and revenge.
was interested in focussing back on them. of creating a memorial on some
level but one that is doomed in the same way that any art trying to represent
loss is doomed.
On a personal level this links too clearly for me with my Holocaust work.
I am not interested in comparing the two events but rather addressing
the common issues that they bring up:
How do you represent loss? How are tragedies used and manipulated? What
is the use of art in the face of such horrors? And yet what are we if
we don't try to understand, to make sense of, however smugly failure may
stare us in the face?
This computer simulation is a proposal for an art project made up of 3000
sticks of charcoal, pieces of paper and erasers, one for every victim
of the terror of September 11th. What better answer to destruction and
terror than the creation of new art, this is the message I learnt from
the people of New York.
With thanks to Jason Meyer and Kim Male