This project follows the reconstruction of an American icon: New York's World Trade Center. Where earlier series examined the violence of war, in Concrete Abstract I apply a post-traumatic gaze to the cityscape of Manhattan in the aftermath of 9/11. In this series images of the World Trade center are layered to create abstract visuals that move away from illustration or aestheticization. The shift from documentary photojournalism to abstraction invites interpretive personal engagement with this symbol of the country’s struggles, values, pain and vacillations, and by proxy the sociological landscape of America.
The title Concrete Abstracts refers to the creation of the work: each abstract begins primary images documenting a core substance the site, and what it represents. It remains as a mute witness of its original configuration, then forms an entirely new envelope, consciously and perceptively addressing the relationship between the whole and the sum of its parts, between old and new, wound and scab, the visible and the invisible. Reality is a sum of truth and perspectives. Accordingly each of my original primary images still carries the notion that “it has been there (2)”, the concrete detailed quality of realism. But then, it becomes one layer among many. The final images, with their original materials and the interrelations spawned between them, set out to underscore the ambivalent emotional weight accompanying every process of deconstruction and reconstruction: beneath the surface remains a traumatic historical baggage, a legacy. It seems as though we are standing over an archaeological mound, except that in this newly created palimpsest, we can now have a penetrating gaze through all of its strata simultaneously.
"All that is solid melts into air." (3) Destruction and reconstruction are the motivating forces behind our economy. This is also the essence of the human experience: being in the eye of the storm, confronting the destruction of everything we know, and rebuilding it. Everything always contained its opposite, its antithesis, but modern life is now rife with contradictions: on the one hand, lofty science and industry, on the other, decay and degeneration.
The accumulation of layers and viewpoints in the images themselves parallels the metropolis in general, New York and America in particular: accumulation - destruction - reconstruction, the paradigm of modernity.
1. The Title for the project is inspired by Henri Lefebvre , The Production of Space, (New York and London: Blackwell Publishers 1991).
2. Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, trans: Richard Howard (New York: Hill and Wang, 1980), pp. 76-77.
3. As per the title of Marshall Berman's book All that is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity (London and New York: Verso, 1983).