Online Observances by Walter Robinson and Sherry Wong
As the U.S. turns to commemoration and mourning on the first anniversary of the events of 9/11, artists and art lovers who travel through cyberspace can find many sites on the World Wide Web that memorialize the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that killed 3,025 people. Some examples:
Perhaps the most heavily trafficked site of this sort is Here Is New York, the impromptu exhibition of photographs of 9/11 taken by ordinary people that opened in a SoHo storefront and became one the most compelling collections of images of the disaster. The undertaking has now branched out with exhibitions in ten U.S. countries and several more cities abroad. Its strong effect comes from its democratic nature (anyone could contribute pictures) and from the intensely personal way that it is viewed -- silently, individually, without a guiding anchorman’s narrative. The online website has dozens and dozens of these photographs, which can be ordered for $25 each with net proceeds going to the Children’s Aid Society.
Brooklyn artist John Klima, who shows at Postmasters Gallery and was included in the 2002 Whitney Biennial, has an online artwork called The Great Game. Made in 2001 during the U.S. attacks on Afghanistan, the site has a 3D map of the country with symbols depicting munitions, aircraft, targets and troop movements, info culled by the artist from Department of Defense press briefings. By holding down their cursor and dragging it across the map, visitors to the site can navigate through the virtual reality that is Afghanistan.
Another democratic site devoted to the World Trade Center attack is the Virtual Memorial, a web portal put together by artist Agricolo de Cologne. Any artist can submit work, which posted online under various subject headings, such as "A Memorial for the Victims of Terror." A vast resource of photographs, paintings, text and virtual works along with links to relating articles, the site aims to be an informative and supportive response to terrorism, fundamentalism and violence. Although it is difficult to use and some parts of it are tasteless, the site does demonstrate the breadth of art and knowledge dealing with 9/11 available online.
One of the Virtual Memorial’s online works has a background of yellow lines in a binary pattern moving on a red background. In the center is another window that features a 360 degree view of Manhattan taken from one of the towers. When the second tower appears as you scroll through the scenery it is blotted out by more yellow and red lines moving at an eye-irritating pace. Another work, dubbed "The Art Project" by Nina Meledandri, features hundreds of artists who submit work, discuss their emotions in ongoing journals and communicate with each other through images.
Poet and artist Eryk Salvaggio, who runs an online zine called 1,000 Ridiculous Tragedies, has made an online artwork designed to link the incessant media images of the destruction of the World Trade Center to the names of the actual people who died there. The result is September 11th, 2001, a repeating image of the Trade Towers made up of names.
A site by Jessica Loseb called The Dream is a Flash animation of poem expressing a fearful response to terrorism and the aftermath of Sept. 11. Turn up the volume; the piece has music.
A kind of anti-war art installation online is the Word Room, a real-world artwork by Haleh Niazmand, Taraneh Hemami and Gita Hashemi designed as "a space for mourning the dead and reflecting on the conditions of the living." Look for the almost-hidden nav links on the left side of the screen. Originally exhibited at the Janalyn Hanson White Gallery in Cedar Rapids, the website includes a message board for visitors to post their thoughts.
The anti-war petition Not in Our Name appears online at www.nion.us, with a statement of resistance to the bellicose path the U.S. is taking and a long list of signatories that includes many artists and celebrities.
A Google search of "art" and "9/11" turns up a variety of other sites. The National Coalition against Censorship has compiled a lengthy list of online responses to 9/11 and its aftermath. Artist Aidan Hughes offers militant "propaganda art" posters, such as one titled "Liberate Kandahar" for $140. And Blue Mountain, the online greeting-card pioneer that was recently bought by American Greetings, has an online memorial quilt of personal messages posted over patriotic imagery.
Michael Richards, the only professional artist to lose his life in the catastrophe -- he is believed to have been working in his studio on the 90th floor of the South Tower -- has a modest online memorial, courtesy the Studio Museum in Harlem.
WALTER ROBINSON is editor of Artnet Magazine. SHERRY WONG is editorial assistant at Artnet Magazine.