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ART LOSS, DAMAGE, AND REPERCUSSIONS
Proceedings of an IFAR Symposium on February 28, 2002
The Artist Residency Program in the Twin Towers, page 3
by Moukhtar Kocache
The value of the work that the artists lost in the studios on the 92nd floor is approximately $500,000, with equipment valued at around $50,000, and materials totaling approximately $20,000. On the 91st floor, we lost art work valued at $150,000, and equipment and materials valued at about $10,000. Also destroyed were works at the LMCC's offices. We are still assessing what exactly was lost, but we estimate over 150 art works—paintings, drawings, sculptures, and photography, including pieces by Komar & Melamid, Tim Hailand, Daniel Kohn, Taylor Spence, and Takashi Murakami.
Beyond tangible art objects or opportunities for creation, I want us to think and evaluate what else was lost on 9/11. I am thinking of the company archives, for instance, the World Trade Center's construction archive and architectural history, incredible sources of documentation, drawings, writings and historical artifacts. Many individuals had valuables, jewelry, photographs and documents in sate deposit boxes in banks; these items are gone. One incredible loss for instance is an estimated 10,000 photographs taken by the official Kennedy family photographer: they were being stored at a bank in the buildings. An informal memorial at the third floor basement that the union members had built for their friends and colleagues who had perished in the 1993 attack, that too is gone. Beautiful graffiti in the bathrooms and on the basement walls, love poems, manifestos to the world—these are gone. The wad of red chewing gum that performance art group Gelatin had stuck outside the building on the 91st floor after removing one of the windows, signing or marking the building from the outside, this is an art work that's also gone. Office workers had built personal altars on and around their desks with photographs, images and letters. These are gone. The views of the clouds at such a height, the sounds of the wind and of the city from that height, all of this is gone.
In the last century, we expanded the definition of art-making and artists; we have come to think of them as shamans, healers, activists, social workers, and revolutionaries. What was the loss in terms of intellectual and creative energy and human potential? Why not consider as artists, the chefs, cocktail masters, the elevator guy, Billy, with his funny performances and stories, the window washer and ultimate romantic Rocco, perched on top of the buildings full of amazing revelations and narratives. . . he could see the curvature of the Earth from where he worked. . . how about the computer geeks who wrote code and dreamt of new machines and technologies? All of them contributed to the social experience and cultural fabric of the Center, making it a unique environment to make art and enjoy life. And in terms of the ultimate purpose of art, which to me is experiential and phenomenological, we lost random and banal things like the exhilarating ride up the elevator, the intense wind in the plaza that would on certain days lift you from the floor, and the symphony created by the creaking revolving doors near the Custom House during rush hour. What about all of the very private and ephemeral moments like, for instance, smiling at someone in Tower One when you're standing in Tower Two and they smile back at you...or the white plastic bag that one evening took my breath away as I was watching the sunset from the 91st floor. I will remember forever how it fluttered and fluttered and fluttered.
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