Eulogy for Architecture
The ones that work the best, for me, are the ones that cut through the clutter and spotlight just one specific aspect of the loss. In attempting to comprehend something on a mass scale, it's helpful to look at just a small part of the loss, and try to magnify it in ourselves to comprehend everything.
In that vein, the NPR show 99% Invisible created an Elegy for WTC -- as a design podcast, it focuses on the loss of the buildings themselves (understanding that the loss of the buildings is far, far smaller loss than the loss of the people. But it provides an opening to hear the architect of the World Trade Center struggle with his own personal responsibility, for not having made it stronger, more impregnable. And I promise you it's the only place you'll actually get to hear what the WTC sounded like.
A Disjointed List Of Artworks
More proof of this overload is the disjointed smattering of things that readers of Andrew Sullivan's blog have been sending in that are "works of art" responding to 9/11.
The Act As Performance
I recalled this morning that there was an essay in one of my textbooks that termed 9/11 a work of "performance art." I remember finding that notion deeply offensive to performance, although technically true -- it's a performance; the intended goals are far beyond the actual act of destruction.
There's been a lot of writing about how the worst part of 9/11 is what it did to America, and what America did in response. That's because performance changes the audience's behavior; it plants in them an idea that makes them act differently in the future. The idea that we had planted was fear; directionless, futile. And we responded.
I had no idea how controversial the people who jumped/fell out of the buildings during the disaster were. This Wikipedia article that I stumbled across, about just one of the photos, captures it pretty well:
Officially, all deaths in the attacks except those of the hijackers were ruled to be homicides (as opposed to suicides), and the New York City medical examiner's office stated that it does not classify the people who fell to their deaths on September 11 as "jumpers": "A 'jumper' is somebody who goes to the office in the morning knowing that they will commit suicide... These people were forced out by the smoke and flames or blown out."
Wikipedia is now our cultural memory, and where we turn to learn the things we don't know, so maybe the true "final" eulogy will be there: what comes up when a new generation of youngsters don't understand September 11th, and google it for the first time.
This is what they''ll get.