September 11 attack on the US seen through the eyes of artists

One of the most prominent features of the latest Documenta art exhibition at Kassel was its political bent. Most of the works on display addressed universal social and political matters in a head-on manner, much like documentary, and, for many, raised the perennial question of art’s controversial relationship to politics. Can art be politically influential? If so, how does form suit political content? For art to escape being propaganda and for it to make a lasting impression, should there be a time lapse between a political event and the creation of artwork? Much has already been written on such issues in the course of 20th-century art history and theory, with each period in history producing its own views to account for its own culture. Today, on the occasion of the anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the USA, such issues related to art and politics seem pertinent once again, which is what came through at the prestigious and cutting-edge Documenta. Now that a year has passed since the attacks, artists have somehow begun to assess the situation from a relative time distance and been able to use it as a subject for their art. September 11-inspired art is mostly commemorative art, a way of coming to terms with a painful event and building a sense of solidarity through visual language. It is occasionally art with a practical side to it, helping to raise money for the victims’ families. Either way, it is interesting to reflect on the production, dissemination and social function of art but also what an artist’s motives are in choosing to address such a scarring event. In Greece, one of the most important artistic responses to the bombing of the Twin Towers is a website project initiated by artist Dimitris Dokatzis about three months ago. Dokatzis asked artists to contemplate questions such as the tension produced by cultural difference, cultural hegemony and political as well as economic interests. The works of the 35 artists who responded are to be found at glimpses. The site’s links to related essays by intellectuals such as Paul Virilio, Antoni Negri and Jean Baudrillard help raise further thought about the September 11 attack. Also commemorating the event is «Headlines of History,» an exhibition which brings together the headlines of newspapers from around the world at the time of the attack. The exhibition is organized by and held at the Hellenic American Union through September 27. The US Embassy in Athens is also organizing a host of events, among them «Images from Ground Zero,» a photography exhibition by Joel Meyerowitz which will be displayed at the Syntagma Metro station until tomorrow. A year after the event, art can function not only as an emotional outlet but also as a stimulus to make us reflect on both human pain and also on world politics. The image of the crumbling towers is probably the most shocking and lasting of all, an image that has surpassed our own imaginations. It will probably take some time before artists can process all that has happened into the creation of art but also before we come to a place where we can appreciate art related to the September 11 event in a more detached and rational manner.

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