The memorial

The memorial
: The NY Times has a substantial — but ultimately unsatisfying — package on the 9.11 memorial in Sunday’s Arts & Leisure section.

In the lead essay, Michael Kimmelman contemplates — without finding conclusion — the use of names in memorials.

The competition guidelines for the memorial at ground zero require that the design “recognize each individual who was a victim” on Sept. 11, 2001, and on Feb. 26, 1993, when the World Trade Center was first attacked. It’s a safe bet that many of the 5,200 submissions interpret that as some kind of list of names. By aesthetic and social consensus, names are today a kind of reflexive memorial impulse, lists of names having come almost automatically to connote “memorial,” just as minimalism has come to be the presumptive sculptural style for memorial design, the monumental blank slate onto which the names can be inscribed.

I can’t say anything about my own proposed memorial, for we’re forbidden by the rules of the anonymous competition from revealing our plans to the media, but I did address the issue of names because it’s clear to me that the names are not enough. Just listing the names marks only the deaths of victims, not their lives. The memorial must to do more. I have my humble suggestion. There are other, better solutions, I am sure.

: More in the package:

: Herbert Muschamp writes a story that is at first antiseptic, then twee, then borderline offensive as he describes the current design in distant, aesthetic terms and then criticizes a pamphlet calling for a Museum of Freedom at the site:

Throughout the ground zero design process, many New Yorkers have felt “powerful and powerless at the same time.” They have spoken, but with little conviction that they are being heard. Should I have a turn at such a mouthpiece, this is what I would say:

Not everyone saw the twin towers as symbols of freedom. For some, they represented the Kafkaesque mental enslavement of government bureaucracy and dull office routine. For others, they stood for Rockefeller power: for oil, that is to say, and the bizarre things we do to satisfy our need for it.

NOT everyone thinks that the United States is ideally poised at this moment to point fingers at “places that lack basic human freedoms.” …

Ideally, I would like to voice such opinions without being branded a traitor, a pro-terrorist, or a person opposed to freedom.

That all-caps “NOT” is a typographical accident online — that’s where a drop cap appears in print — but it is like a political Freudian slip, revealing Muschamp’s real point and the point I found offensive.

: A story on the “culture derby” erupting downtown.

: James Sanders says New York has an aversion to memorials and he explains why.

: A story on those who would rebuild the Twin Towers.

: A profile of David Childs, who’s designing the Freedom Tower.

: And a story that reports little but speculates much on the process of selecting the memorial.

: It’s an impressive, ambitious lot of stories. But ultimately, it’s soulless, bloodless, like a parody of Arts & Leisure stories where art imitates art and never life.

The package treats New York as an unfinished sculpture in a dehumidified, silent, white museum, not a place where people live, a place that now must remember both its horror and its heroes. That’s what this memorial is about, not aesthetics or politics or culture or architecture. It is about life and death.

: After reading the Times, go read Michele and see how a person with a beating heart is affected by the place, without a memorial.

  • http://www.deanesmay.com Dean Esmay

    I suppose they don’t want to seem schmaltzy and overbearing.
    And yet, and yet…

  • Sasha

    I think you have Jodi Kantor, ultra hip editor babe, to thank for the pile of steamin’ carp that is the A & L section. I’m just waiting for the “Diary” section to be included, just as it was at Slate, so all her sorority sisters can write about the banality of their lives as gallery assistants.