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More Real Than Reality
June 27, 2011 - USA

I was horrified to hear the reactions that you are getting from some of the other artists here. I didn't hear exactly what you said because I couldn't hear with all the noise and because I came and went a couple times, but I gather that they have reacted negatively both to your methodology (media you work with, perhaps seeing it as "too commercial"??? I wasn't sure what you said about this) and to the use of the imagery of the 9/11 scene. When I initially heard you were doing video work about how many times the scene had been looped and played on different channels, I was very excited about what you would do with it, what you would do to make an overt commentary on how this media saturation ended up feeding the frenzy of fear, fueling the fires for revenge rather than sensible discourse regarding causes of the act and reactions to it, and almost trivializing it over time by repeating it so often that everyone has it memorized now, it is almost like a horrible scene from "Sophies Choice" that makes us angry at the Nazis and makes us want to cry, but that also feels removed through layers of glass. Part of this will be in my essay for your second book, but my initial response to seeing the flipbook was shock that you would use that image IN THIS WAY as art, and a great welling of emotion at the memory of where I was when it happened. You have also compared what you are doing to Schindler's List being seen as a pro-Nazi movie. I wasn't sure how to react to that, since Schlindler's list puts it's message clearly into a context of a narrative. Your flipbook deliberately removes the narrative, and I felt stupid for not understanding the meaning of it's lack of narrative context the first time I saw it. (Remember, I'm a writer, not a visual artist!) Reading the book did two things. First, it made me feel less stupid about not knowing how to interpret the meaning of the flipbook. Everybody seemed to have a different reaction, although the negatives were fairly similar. Second, it gave me the opportunity to educate myself more about art, and about how emptiness and lack of narrative interpreation or explanation is filled by different people in so many different ways. As a writer, I have a message that I think I want to get across, yet there are levels of meaning that I am not even aware of as I write, and that I only see when I have spent time away from the work and look back at it. There are also myriad other interpretations that other people have of my work. I am working now on how holes in myself have been filled with food -- you first book shows how overstuffed holes feel to people when they are finally emptied, and they are at last freed to do nothing but simply experience those horrible few moments in solitude. Their essays clearly show that their reactions are subdued by the distance of time, and colored with layers of prior media interpretation (especially the angry ones), but also of intervening experience that may have enabled the development of a certain wisdom and ability to tolerate ambiguity. At least I see this as a form of wisdom. I feel I have gained more from from the experience of reading others' reactions and talking to you than I did from seeing the original flipbook itself.

I think I want to look at my earlier comments. I can't remember exactly what I said in them, but what I want to say now relates to the idea of how people feel entitled to narrative (or explanation or story, whatever word you want to use), angry without it, especially if it is not the narrative they have come to claim as "true" or their own. This also relates, oddly enough, to how my husband and I know that the tornado that damaged our home landed in our next door neighbor's back yard. The guy two doors down from us (on the other side of the "tornado yard") watched the tornado touch down, not more than 25 or 30 yards from him, as though his view out the window were something that made it at once fascinating narrative and yet not really real, no threat to him. It was almost like his window were a tv screen, and he needed to see the story of what was happening in order to make it real -- simply seeking safety in order to survive was not enough. Media are more real than reality. This desperation for both the drama and the narrative is, I think, part of what infuriated some of the people who wrote the angriest responses to you. Even though they said the pictures should not be seen again, I suspect that they are the kind of people who attend memorials with pictures of the fallen, which recall the images of that day to memory anyway. The fury comes from the silence of the flipbooks -- the failure to present the pictures in the correct way, with the proper reverence for the victims, honor for the saviors, and fury at the perpetrators. 

The people who responded to the flipbook the first time were creating their own narratives or responses to the scene. Some painted their narratives like artists, some intellectualized them to distance from any emotion, some simply spewed hate because (as I mentioned above) the flipbooks didn't contain the "correct" narrative. Some seemed to just sit in the silence of the flipbook and feel the sadness, the helplessness, the anger, and share that. Using flipbooks to open the door to these alternate stories of the moments when the plane hit the tower by granting that silence, particularly  in the aftermath of a virtual tidal wave of indoctrination of what 9/11 meant, is pure genius. I think it is especially important to tell people how many times the news media relentlessly repeated of that scene from the flipbook and the falling of the towers. Our news stations claim that they refrain from showing scenes of death or injuries that are "too disturbing." Yet here in the space of 15 hours CNN ran 109 times one of the goriest moments in recent history -- literally the moments of death for hundreds and then thousands of people. The hypocrisy of their position is mind-boggling, and I wonder if all of America is not suffering from something like post traumatic stress disorder just from viewing the scene so many times. Again, to read the responses of people in the absence of the media onslaught is amazing. I salute you, and I am deeply affected by the stories shared in the first book.


Previous Essay Main Page Next Essay
Name Date Location Title
0. Scott Blake September 17, 2008 Omaha, Nebraska Introduction
1. Sarah Baker March 12, 2006 Omaha, Nebraska The very first essay
2. Sean Smith May 10, 2006 Toronto, Canada Tactical application of slowness
3. Mike Fischer May 17, 2006 Racine, Wisconsin My birthday is September 11
4. Pat Riot May 23, 2006 Los Angeles, California 9-11 FLIP OUT
5. Julian Miller May 31, 2006 New York, New York Desperate grab for attention
6. Scott Grant June 5, 2006 Bristol, United Kingdom I wished I didn't own a television
7. Daniel Clark June 6, 2006 Henderson, Nevada Media Monotony
8. Damon Lawner June 10, 2006 Los Angeles, California Concise yet massive story
9. Natalie Conforti June 12, 2006 San Francisco, California American student in Italy
10. K Torpy June 13, 2006 Omaha, Nebraska Incomprehensible accessible
11. Pierre Ernest June 18, 2006 Borsbeek, Belgium I also was born on Sept. 11th
12. Timothy Schaffert June 18, 2006 Omaha, Nebraska Lesson in commerce and tragedy
13. Chris Fischer June 18, 2006 Landisville, Pennsylvania i could give a fuck less
14. Aaron Norhanian June 19, 2006 Brooklyn, New York Hold the moment in my hand
15. Anonymous June 19, 2006 Anonymous. i think that Bush planned it
16. Steve Chudomelka June 19, 2006 Omaha, Nebraska Caught in the moment again
17. Adam Arsenault June 19, 2006 Prince Edward Island, Canada Respecting each other's visions
18. Pierre-François Maquaire June 19, 2006 Paris, France I collect folioscopes
19. Kim Lyvang June 20, 2006 Ontario, Canada My life is now richer
20. Alexis Turner June 20, 2006 Portland, Oregon Listen to *me*
21. Patrick Hughes June 21, 2006 Gainesville, Florida I would not like a 9-11 flipbook
22. Philippe Dubost June 26, 2006 Chamalières, France Sensational effects of this game
23. Jean-Pierre Becker June 27, 2006 Paris, France I could smile about your question
24. Jayne Sonshine June 28, 2006 Twp. of Washington, New Jersey Hold a piece of history
25. Tabitha Straws June 28, 2006 Seattle, Washington Selfish American
26. K. Verbonus June 28, 2006 Steilacoom, Washington Everyone wants to be right
27. Jo Bryan June 28, 2006 Cambs, United Kingdom Another frantic day
28. Hayley Gardiner June 28, 2006 Northampton, United Kingdom Not just about the victims
29. David Vogt June 28, 2006 Rockford, Illinois Feelings and emotions of others
30. Nick Jugovics June 28, 2006 Paxton, Illinois Made from suffering
31. Lennaert Bosch June 28, 2006 Cuijk, The Netherlands Ten and a half year old
32. Anonymous June 29, 2006 Anonymous Trivializing those events
33. David Pitman July 1, 2006 South Wales, United Kingdom Slap in the face
34. Tracy Cowell July 1, 2006 Somerset, United Kingdom Agree with it or not
35. Candy VanOcker July 1, 2006 Springville, New York This happened to everyone
36. Fadel Haowat July 1, 2006 Chicago, Illinois What the news can do
37. Daniel Sahagian July 1, 2006 North Arlington, New Jersey Light against Hate and Ignorance
38. Sam Brobvision July 1, 2006 Nottingham, United Kingdom Little effect on my life
39. Cain Radford July 1, 2006 Broken Hill, Australia Through tragedy life goes on
40. Susan Rabka July 1, 2006 Johannesburg, South Africa I might as well have been there
41. Nicole Brodsky July 1, 2006 San Francisco, California Arbiter of the act
42. Julie Gormly July 2, 2006 Brisbane, Australia Uncomfortable sharing
43. Nicola Dingle July 2, 2006 Somerset, United Kingdom Seize the day
44. Tarryn Bow July 3, 2006 Broken Hill, Australia Far more shocking
45. Ricardo dC Russo July 3, 2006 Manaus, Brazil World is full of lost words
46. Pascal Fouché July 4, 2006 Paris, France How people can see it
47. Anthony Mack July 4, 2006 Lacey, Washington ALL humans strive for freedom
48. Teri Jenkins July 6, 2006 Ontario, Canada Deepest sympathies
49. Alexandre Noyer July 6, 2006 Annecy, France Internationnal langage
50. Yolanda Yuyu July 6, 2006 Chengdu, China It tell us to remember something
51. Craig Park July 7, 2006 Rocky Mount, North Carolina Are we better for our learning
52. Kell Black July 11, 2006 Clarksville, Tennessee Small matchbox diorama
53. Anonymous July 12, 2006 United States Sophisticated visual humor
54. Lauren De Luca July 12, 2006 New York, New York Less than a mile from the Towers
55. Nanette Allen July 12, 2006 Las Vegas, Nevada Intimate translations
56. Manfred Reichert July 21, 2006 Visselhoevede, Germany Flash animation
57. B Rousse July 22, 2006 Paris, France It deserves our irreverence
58. Charlotta Bjorkskog July 22, 2006 Kokkola, Finland Of course you gain on it
59. Stuart and Tara July 24, 2006 Brooklyn, New York Better view on the TV
60. Dave Schneider January 29, 2007 Chicago, Illinois Remind me of "real" pain
61. Dan Keane January 30, 2007 Bloomfield, New Jersey what the fuck was the 'message'?
62. Thomas Hill February 6, 2007 Oklahoma City, Oklahoma perception is reality
63. Robert Fischer March 29, 2007 Houma, Louisiana the defining moment
64. Frank J Perrotta December 5, 2007 Sharon, Pennsylvania 9-11 Flip Book Manipulations
65. Matthew Lahey January 7, 2008 Los Angeles, Califronia On A Flipbook
66. Kristin Heikel March 16, 2008 Omaha, Nebraska Reporting and Voyeurism
67. Aibyouka Kun September 29, 2008 Westmont, New Jersey The First IM Chat
68. Bobby Ryan November 4, 2008 North Cape May, New Jersey Patriotic Work of Art
69. Trevon Watson February 3, 2009 Guyton, Georgia War On Terror is Fading Away
70. Adrian Davis February 17, 2009 Fort Bragg, North Carolina Something you care about
71. Dear December 26, 2008 Portland, Oregon Second IM Chat
72. James King May 4, 2009 Glasgow, Scotland The world will never be the same
73. Beáta Istvánko October 27, 2009 Budakalász, Hungary Opinion of the audience
74. Alex Klehfoth June 1, 2009 Lexington, Kentucky Twin Tower Pinata
75. Wolfgang Skodd May 5, 2010 Dortmund, Germany Agents & Provocateurs
76. Michiko Tanaka August 2, 2010 Seattle, Washington Over and over
77. DJ Tilley January 7, 2011 Reno, Nevada Wandering around the playground
78. Benjamin Goggin January 8, 2011 Portland, Oregon Tornadoes to terrorism
79. Tom Eubank January 8, 2011 New York City, New York Top floor of 95 Christopher Street
80. Ian January 8, 2011 Oakland, California Stir things up
81. Anonymous February 24, 2011 Anonymous Inconsiderate and offensive
82. Amanda Marsico March 3, 2011 District of Columbia, USA Thank you for making me think
83. Anonymous April 18, 2011 Anchorage, Alaska This isint a joke
84. Jessica Schwartz April 27, 2011 USA Who is the work for?
85. Dr. Kevin Dann May 19, 2011 Brooklyn, New York Thanks Art Spiegelmann
86. TheBigBoss May 26, 2011 Nairobi, Kenya Le Chêne et le Roseau
87. Stephania June 27, 2011 USA More Real Than Reality
88. Anonymous July 11, 2011 Brooklyn, New York Weak and Irresponsible
89. Renee Nied August 4, 2011 Cobleskill, New York Pick Up Tomorrow
90. Elliott Burris September 2, 2011 Saint Joseph, Missouri I was only 3
91. Sheila Zachariae September 9, 2011 Omaha, Nebraska Protecting the people from themselves
92. Wendy Parker November 6, 2011 Leicester, United Kingdom Interesting Yet Horrifying
93. Aidan Hicks March 12, 2012 Aurora, Colorado Quite Young on September 11
94. Patrick McCarthy April 17, 2012 Chicago, Illinois Propaganda Attack
95. Billy October 12, 2012 Sandia Park, New Mexico Bling Review 41
96. Gabriella Cutrone June 25, 2013 Brooklyn, New York Inspired and Upset
97. BSG October 31, 2013 Portland, Oregon Images Detach From Emotions
98. Wilfredo Raguro July 28, 2016 Irving, Texas Looking Back Now
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