Seeing Ghosts

Seeing Ghosts: 9/11 and the Visual Imagination

Karen Engle
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 224
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Seeing Ghosts
    Book Description:

    Starting from the tremendous fascination with images of 9/11, Karen Engle asks what, in the context of a national trauma, makes an image appropriate or scandalous, exploring how diverse visual media have been mobilized in political projects of identification and personal narratives of empathy. Focusing on themes of memory, mourning, and history, Engle examines sculptural, photographic, and new media responses to the 9/11 attacks in both contemporary and historical contexts, considers the public's reaction to these visual productions, and suggests that earlier presentations of America at war play a pivotal role in the representations of 9/11 in both official and popular media.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7526-4
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction: The Perfect Image of the Lost
    (pp. 3-8)

    I wasn’t there. I did not experience the day, or the immediate aftermath, first-hand. Because of this, the ensuing pages are anchored in a fundamental absence. I say absence, not blindness. This is a book about ghosts and memory and history in the wake of 11 September 2001. More specifically, it is a book about how the event has been visually remembered and the ways that history pulses through this contemporary memory, breathing life into it.

    With respect to 11 September 2001, the question of thevisualis especially significant. Artist Damien Hirst provocatively asserted that the attacks were designed...

  5. One Tumbling Woman
    (pp. 9-27)

    It appeared on the lower concourse of Rockefeller Center in September 2002 (fig. 1). A woman’s body, fixed in bronze, tumbles irrevocably to the ground. Head smacking, legs thrown overhead, arms helpless to protect her from the force of impact, she appeared there in violent stasis. Unlike the others to whom she referred, her body did not crumble, break, or disintegrate. But her impact was nevertheless too much. Too many bodies had already fallen, so this one, this single bronzed nude fixed in a state of perpetual collision against concrete, was judged too much to bear. Shrouded like so many...

  6. Two Falling Man
    (pp. 28-50)

    He was caught falling.

    Upside down. Straight down. He looks like a gymnast in the middle of a dismount, so perfectly in line is he with his surroundings. Oblivious to anyone or anything else around him, he looks to be expertly negotiating the laws of gravity. “He is,” as Tom Junod writes, “in the clutches of pure physics, accelerating at a rate of 32 feet per second squared. He will soon be traveling at upwards of 150 miles per hour” (2003). It took about ten seconds for each jumper to hit the ground; this eerie photograph isolates a fraction of...

  7. Three Postcard Memories
    (pp. 51-77)

    In bold red letters, “You Never Walk Alone” is stamped across the top of a postcard featuring a collage of 9/11 images (fig. 14). Directly beneath the caption, the inscription “New York, September 11th, 2001” marks the date never to be forgotten. Positioned top-centre, a giant American flag nearly dwarfs the smoking towers of the World Trade Center that frame it. Two images of the towers are pictured here: the first depicts the towers before they fell, spewing smoke from the impact sites; the second captures the aftermath – a smoky pile of rubble with twisted steel girders rising out of...

  8. Four The Face of a Terrorist
    (pp. 78-112)

    From the beginning of all this, or rather, from the moment on 11 September 2001 when we in theWest began to understand the realities of our geographical insecurities, there has been a problem with the materialization of invisibility and with the related processes of enemy identification. As Mary Gordon wrote in theNew York Timeswithin a week of the attacks: “To have an enemy with no name and therefore no face, or even worse, a name and face that can only be guessed at, is the stuff of nightmare” (2001). Composed during the shock of those first days, Gordon’s...

  9. Five Mourning at Work, or Making Sense of 9/11
    (pp. 113-140)

    President George W. Bush wanted Americans to feel close to 11 September 2001. He wanted them to feel close so that they would understand the necessity of war. Bush’s message to the world was similar, if less cushioned by sentiment:You are either with us or against us. Stated otherwise: feel our pain, or else. As Milan Kundera writes: “When the heart speaks, the mind finds it indecent to object. In the realm of kitsch, the dictatorship of the heart reigns supreme” (1991, 250). Bush’s line in the sand worked hand in hand with his direct line to God and...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 141-162)
  11. References
    (pp. 163-180)
  12. Index
    (pp. 181-183)