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The Story of the Work contains how Moment of Impact 9/11 was initially instigated. The development of the broken apple and the references to Lichenstein’s Whaam! in Panels 4 and 6 were the starting point for the design of the nine panels when I originally received the commission. (more...)
1. Individual Panels to an Overall Image
2. America’s Response & Geopolitics
3. Final Subject for Moment of Impact 9/11
4. Photographic Theory, Research & Sontag
I want to highlight two books that were significant during the making of Moment of Impact 9/11, one that contains a 1,000 photographs, the other contains just one, of the author. There are of course many books with photographs published under specific subjects but there is only one that contains such a quantity, without being overtly organised. The book Here is New York: A Democracy in Photographs (2002) is a reduced version of an exhibition with the same name, which displayed 3,500 images, that was organised shortly after 9/11 in New York. The exhibition organisers requested photographs of the city on 9/11 regardless of the originator’s skill, or camera equipment. Due to its ‘popularity’ it stayed open for months longer than originally intended and later the book was published. I thought upon viewing the book that this was as close as you were likely to be to 9/11, ‘apparently’ closer to the event than any newspaper reportage because of the sheer number and range of photographs. I am also not forgetting the often confused status of the photograph, they are an interpretation like other forms of visual images, this idea was propounded by Susan Sontag in her seminal book On Photography (1977). In her last book Regarding the Pain of Others (2003) she returns to her earlier thoughts about how we respond to the proliferation of war photographs, to violence and suffering, that we face on a 24 hour, daily basis through the media. The book does contain excellent research into the constructed nature of photojournalism, from the first war photographs through to considerations of the present day. I was also interested in her decision not to include the photographs that she discusses in the book, especially in relation to those readers who are not familiar with them. A weakness in the book is not in the questions she poses, which sharpened my daily questioning, but that she doesn’t propose an ethical stance to follow on from her thoughts. This of course can be counterclaimed as missing the point, not forgetting Sontag was committed enough to work in the dangerous surroundings of Sarajevo. My initial response was to make the images in glass, to convey the confused horror of that day, to make a work for future generations. Remembering the initial horror at the deaths and casualties my aim was akin to Picasso’s Guernica and the work of many other artists.
(Most recently I have been made aware of Ulrich Baer’s excellent work on photography and trauma, (more...) through the curator of ‘The Mythological Machine’ exhibition catalogue, ‘A Users Manual’. (more...)
5. War Artists & Picasso’s Guernica
I decided to explore Picasso’s Guernica (1937) in depth and over the next couple of months made about 40 panel drawings. (This was before the 2004 Madrid bombing.) Picasso’s use of abstraction in Guernica provided a salutary lesson in conveying raw emotions whilst avoiding the grotesque. If I wanted to produce a piece of work about the grotesque alone, my images would have been very different, immediately I think of particular photographs of 9/11. Nor did I want to remove all aspects of this, but I decided to incorporate a small number of images that may be viewed as grotesque, but it is such a subjective quality.
Eventually I had reconfigured my whole design with references to Guernica and was ready to make full-scale cartoons, when another self-imposed review halted work. I had even considered removing the intense colours that I had always planned to use and restrict the palette to monochromatic shades of browns and blacks, similar to those that Picasso had used. It was the idea of having to remove the vibrant blues of the sky that caused the concern. I was reminded of the importance of the management of blue glass in the Pitkin guide to Prisoners of Conscience window in Salisbury Cathedral. (more...) The final decision to use a full range of intense colours was made in order to reflect the vibrancy of the city and the lives that had been shattered.
My attention was, of course, drawn to the power of Guernica’s anti-war message when it was covered with a blue material and flags by officials in order to make a more suitable background for the UN press conference, in which the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, made the statement supporting the case for war against Iraq on the 5th of February 2003.
My conclusion was not to remove all references to Guernica from the nine panels but to integrate them as smaller elements.
1. Top half of Panel 9
6. Jasper Johns
However it was the memory of the feeling of gravity explored in these works that I wanted to include in one of my panels. A separate band of images running down the length of the panel implied scale beyond the door frame and developed my version of the Johns’s human/chair. (more...) This was of course in reference to the people falling from the Twin Towers, which remains one of the strongest memories of that day.
The physicality and interplay of the materials and the surfaces of Johns’s work had inspired and informed my early explorations. I decided I didn’t want to employ glass painting processes that would melt the paint into the glass sheet with firing. Rather I wanted to fully explore what could happen on the surface of the glass with sandblasted images and combined it with other abstract qualities of glass that required no further work, except selection.
Johns’s work significantly incorporated his physical presence into the work with finger, hand and other skin imprints, as many other artists have explored. A small number of the artist’s fingerprints also occur in the glass. I also contrasted the static use of hands in Guernica and how I developed them in my early designs with the movement in Johns’s work such as in Diver (1963) and Lands End (1982). In response I developed a technique so that the artist’s hand appears to slide down the glass and hands became a major theme in Panel 3.
7. Georg Miestermann & Panel 9
If you are interested to find out more, please contact the artist
Moment of Impact 9/11 is now seeking a permanent home contact us.
Manacorda, Francesco. ‘The Mythological Machine’ Mead Gallery, The University of Warwick exhibition catalogue, ‘Inside the Secret Room: A Users Manual’ 27 September 2004.
Pitkin Guide to Prisoners of Conscience window in Salisbury Cathedral, Pitkin, 1980. ISBN 85372 302 8
Sontag, Susan. On Photography. London: Penguin Books, 1979.
Sontag, Susan. Regarding the Pain of Others. London: Hamish Hamilton, 2003
Here is New York: A Democracy in Photographs, 2002. Scalo, Zurich. ISBN 3-908247-66-7
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