Moment of Impact 9/11 - Glass installation by Lynn Rivers
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Art Influences

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...)

Art Influences Index
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
5.War Artists & Picasso’s Guernica
6.Jasper Johns
7.Georg Miestermann & Panel 9
8.Bibliography

1. Individual Panels to an Overall Image
Apart from the apple being split across two panels at the centre of the design, the panels were initially developed as stand-alone images. It was during renewed research into Pop Art, that I responded to the scale and subject of James Rosenquist's F-111 painting (1964-65) and reviewed the panels. The painting spans 86ft x 10ft with a F-111 jet plane travelling through a number of contemporary images including a Firestone tyre, a nuclear explosion and angel food cake. Bearing this in mind, I decided to keep planes in each half of the apple, as described before, with another much larger-scale plane travelling across the panels on either side of the apple. More importantly this then caused a major exploration of the role of scale and complexity. I determined to make one large overarching impression of the moment of impact across nine panels, incorporating individual pieces with minutely detailed imagery of other moments of impact.

2. America’s Response & Geopolitics
For some time I tried to incorporate America’s response to the attacks into the design. During research into the role of geopolitics in the case for war I considered aspects not yet written about in mainstream media, or that’s how it seemed, and then the next day they became the hot topic. I concluded with a list of questions: Who was producing the best quality research available? How many experts did I need to consult? Who is privy to what information? I concluded that this would require a far greater time span than was available, if even ultimately attainable. It was not my area of expertise. I didn’t have a research team. I also decided that I would not respond, in the design, to the changing daily news and politics. The claims by the media of the ‘shock and awe’ attack by America on Baghdad had left me with the feeling of an empty sickening void, not what I was told to expect.

3. Final Subject for Moment of Impact 9/11
In deciding to return to the events that took place on 9/11, I expected, maybe foolishly, that disputed issues of the ‘official’ story, and there are many of these, would be solved by official investigations but it hadn’t happened and I couldn’t wait. This confirmed to me that the piece of work should refer to the official media story, it was after all part of the day’s history, but not to illustrate it. My aim for Moment of Impact 9/11 was that it was a response to the TV/media, my witnessing another horror of man’s inhumanity. I wanted to reflect my concerns with the incomplete stories that I had seen. In fact every piece contains an incomplete story and likewise the entire piece of work is also an incomplete story. I also wanted to include things that weren’t photographed, or didn’t survive, for example the interior of descending planes in Panel 1. I didn’t have my own photographs so I decided to create my own images. I also wanted to make ‘small’ references to contemporary society; things become highlighted when tragedy strikes, and the potential longevity of the glass panels made me more aware of this.

4. Photographic Theory, Research & Sontag
The following sections 4, 5, and 6 are intertwined.

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 revisited famous war art such as Goya’s Disasters of War (1810-20) and viewed the new work Insult to Injury (2003) by the Chapman brothers, which consists of a doctored set of Goya’s Disasters of War etchings. I reconsidered the staging of war photography by the early pioneers from Matthew O’Brady, Roger Fenton, through to Jeff Wall’s work and contemporary photojournalism. Paul Gough, in his highly acclaimed website Vortex writes about the representation of war and peace in the 20th and 21st centuries and discusses Goya’s radical use of artificial lighting in his etchings and Picasso’s reference to this in 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.

Guernica references

1. Top half of Panel 9
2. Detail of screaming head at top of Panel 9
3. Detail of screaming head in base of Panel 9
4. Detail of hands in Panel 7

6. Jasper Johns
My debate about the use of either monochrome or vibrant colours reminded me of Jasper Johns’s use of these in his work. His work about the American flag would have also been partly responsible for this reminder. I wanted to reconsider two drawings in particular: Watchman (1964) and Study According to What (1967) both of which contained part of a figure, a leg and a chair, positioned at the top of the paper. I had also remembered the astute description of the differences between a watchman and a spy in the Hayward Gallery exhibition catalogue (1990) The Drawings of Jasper Johns.

Panel 8However 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.

Panel 3 - Work in progressJohns’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.
Work in progress

7. Georg Miestermann & Panel 9
Panel 9 was intended to consist of about 200 pieces of glass, to express the scale of the Twin Towers collapse into what seemed a very small amount of debris. It was designed with reference to the German stained glass artist Georg Miestermann, and specifically his window at St Mary’s, Koln-Kalk, Germany. It underwent substantial changes in the area below the black/blue cloud, between the final cartoon and cutting the glass. This was a unique finalisation. Rather than using rows of ever-decreasing pieces I decided to incorporate larger pieces whilst maintaining the feeling of collapse, it was more in keeping with the other nine panels.


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.

Bibliography
Baer, Ulrich. Spectral Evidence – The Photography of Trauma. The MIT Press, 2002.

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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