Memorial Mania: Public Art and Public Feelings in America Today


Uploaded by NDdotEDU on 14.10.2009

Transcript:
[Welcome and Introduction]

Good morning. Welcome to the College of Arts and Letters'
Saturday Scholars lecture series.
My name is Dayle Seidenspinner-Nunez. I'm a professor in the Department of Romance Languages
and Literatures, and also an associate dean for the College of Arts and Letters.
It's my pleasure to coordinate the Saturday Scholars series. This is of course our first
program in the fall 2009 series.
This fall, we are departing from the past and are scheduling all the lectures at 12
o'clock, so we don't have a shift according to the starting time of the home football
game.

This year we are initiating an eighth home game away from home, which will be held
in San Antonio, Texas, on October 31, and Saturday Scholars will be traveling to San
Antonio with the faculty panel on Latinos and the renewal of American Catholicism.
I would also like to remind you that all eight home lectures, then, can be viewed online
at saturdayscholar.nd.edu.

Each home game Saturday, we celebrate Notre Dame's immensely
rich athletic history and traditions.
Saturday Scholars showcases another distinctive strength of Our Lady's university as home
to a distinguished faculty of nationally and internationally known teacher-scholars, such
as our speaker today.

Erika Doss received her B.A. from Ripon College in Art History
and her doctorate from the University of Minnesota in Art History and American Studies.
She currently serves as professor and chair of the Department of American Studies here
at Notre Dame. Erika's teaching and research center on modern and contemporary American
art and visual culture, public art, memorials, national identity, the visual culture of American
religions, and popular culture.

A prolific interdisciplinary scholar, her publications
include Twentieth-Century American Art, published in 2002, Looking at Life Magazine, published
in 2001, Elvis Culture: Fans, Faith, and Image, published in 1999, and my personal favorite,
Spirit Poles and Flying Pigs: Public Art and Cultural Democracy in American Communities,
published in 1995.
Erika is the editor of the "Culture America" series at the University Press of Kansas,
and serves on the editorial board of Memory Studies.
She is currently working on two books: the first is Picturing Faith: 20th Century American
Artists and Issues of Religion, and the second is Memorial Mania: Self Nation and the Culture
of Commemoration in Contemporary America, which has generated the title of today's presentation,
"Memorial Mania, Public Art, and Public Feelings in America Today."
Please join me in welcoming Erika Doss to Saturday Scholars.


[Lecture]

Hi, everyone,
and welcome to Saturday Scholars for September 5. I want to talk today about a phenomenon
I call memorial mania.
In recent years, for example, there have been scores of new memorials that have been dedicated
across America, memorials for example to, and I'm going to go through these fairly quickly,
dead astronauts, executed witches, the greatest generation—How many of you have been to
the National World War II memorial in Washington, dedicated just a few years ago?—memorials
to victims of lynching.
The United States has also recently dedicated memorials that pay tribute to civil rights
and cancer survivors. The cancer survivors memorial that we see on the right is one of
over 30 such memorials in the United States sponsored by H&R Block Foundation out of Kansas
City.
Memorials to Rosie the Riveter and the female defense industry workers of World War II;
a new memorial to the Indian victors of the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876 in Montana;
and in 2007, the victims of Communism memorial was dedicated.
This is a 10-foot bronze memorial loosely based on the Statue of Liberty that was erected
by Chinese student dissidents in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Equally omnipresent are what
we might call temporary memorials, makeshift offerings of flowers, candles, balloons, teddy
bears, that precipitated the sites of tragic and traumatic death such as the World Trade
Center in 2001, or Virginia Tech University in 2007.
And we see these, too, along our highways, roadside shrines like these commemorate some
of the more than 43,000 Americans who die every year in car accidents.

So my question
for today, and the question that overrides my forthcoming book called Memorial Mania,
which will be out in February or so from University of Chicago Press, is why do we make memorials
today, and why do we make so many of them?
What does memorial-making tell us about how Americans feel about issues of memory, history,
and national identity?
I think as the examples shown so far suggest, today's memorials are very divergent in terms
of subject and style. There's no particular memorial style, and there's no particular
memorial theme.
But collectively they represent something called memorial mania, which I tend to define
as a contemporary national obsession with issues of memory, issues of history, and this
urgent, almost excessive desire to claim or secure these issues in public culture.

In
fact, desires for security help explain the nation's growing body of terrorism and 9/11
memorials, including the Oklahoma City national memorial, a 3.5-acre, $29 million monument
to the 168 people who died because of Timothy McVeigh's murderous act of domestic terrorism
in 1995.
Its nationally televised dedication included a speech by President Bill Clinton, who described
the memorial as a "public stand against terrorism."

New York's 9/11 memorial, Reflecting Absence,
is seen on similar terms.
Now this memorial is located on the footprints of the former Twin Towers, and it features
essentially two huge bodies of water.
There will also be an underground memorial center, which will include artifacts recovered
from the rubble, including crushed fire trucks.
It's now called the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center,
and it's supposed to be dedicated in 2011 on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, although
it is looking pretty close to impossible that it will actually meet this goal.

All over
the rest of America, we see hundreds of 9/11 memorials, and there are probably memorials
like these in your hometowns.
How they get chosen, what they look like, and what they mean is often very controversial.
In fact, controversy about contemporary memorials I think tells us the levels of anxiety about
who and what should be remembered in America, and growing numbers of memorials suggest our
attempts to try to resolve these anxieties about our personal and national forms of identity.

The
attacks of 9/11 certainly heightened the sense of anxiety that surrounds memory in America
today.
Within hours of the attacks on the World Trade Center, New York became filled with temporary
memorials erected in parks and on street corners.
Within days, hundreds of proposals had emerged about how to permanently memorialize 9/11,
including the proposal we see on the right by the artist Louise Bourgeois, which consisted
of a very tall plinth with the names of the dead.
Some of these debates have been downright cantankerous and nasty.
In New York, for example, public fury about turning Ground Zero into a "playground" for
culture and art led to the activist group "Take Back the Memorial," and we can see them
on the right here.
This is an alliance of 9/11 family members who insisted that their personal trauma privileged
the management of what is now a billion-dollar national monument.
There was a proposal at one time that an international freedom center be included in the memorial,
and we see a draft of this on the left.
And their opposition to this killed that museum project.

Issues of naming are especially
contentious at New York's 9/11 memorial.
Originally, the architect planned to simply randomly list the names of 9/11 victims on
the lower walls of the two pools.
This was found unacceptable to those who felt that rescue workers should be accorded separate
special status, and by still others who felt that names should be distinguished according
to kinship and company affiliation.

Management of the Flight 93 memorial in Pennsylvania
has also been fraught.
Architect Paul Murdock out of Los Angeles came up with an original design called Crescent
of Embrace, which included a concrete tower of voices housing 40 white wind chimes, a marble wall listing the names
of the 40 passengers and crew members who died in the hijacked plane crash, and a grove
of red maples planted in a bowl-shaped vale that a handful of particularly paranoid blogospherists
called a "jihadist symbol of Islamo-fascism."
Demonstrating the same sort of ludicrous analysis, post-9/11 websites that insisted that Satan's
face could be seen in photographs of dark clouds of smoke surrounding the twin towers,
conspiracy theorist Alex Rawls posted topographical maps, polar coordinates, all of them proving
that the memorial was pointed toward Mecca and that its tower of voices was in fact an
Islamic prayer sundial.
"Someone at Paul Murdock's architecture firm is trying to plant an Islamic flag on the
bodies of our dead heroes," this guy says, calling the architect Murdock a "terrorist-
memorializing scum," and basically all sorts of other maligning horrors.
These images by the way come from his website which is errortheory.com.

Whether or not
any of this Islamophobia was rather cynically overdetermined—interestingly, Rawls is the
son of moral philosopher John Rawls, and he's also given to rather garbled rantings at his
blog site.
Some even call him the Mark David Chapman of the blogosphere, in reference to the man
who killed John Lennon in 1980.
In any case, all of this fury fueled a memorial firestorm.
Much of it raged over what was actually being built in Shanksville, Pennsylvania: a memorial
to the victims of terrorism, or a memorial to the war on terror?
As one blogger remarked, "I'm the old-fashioned type. I don't want to visit remembrance ponds,
reflection areas, hope-and-healing centers, or anything like that. I want huge bronze
statues and flags." Or as another person put it, "We've had enough of this panty-waisted,
New Agey, pop-psychology healing nonsense. We're at war. It's time for anger and vengeance.
Healing is never appropriate for a war memorial."

Terrorism memorials, memorials that commemorate the
victims of terror and terrorism, are among the most heated sites of public art and public
culture in America today. Their growing number suggests what we might call a cultural turn
toward public feeling, toward affective modes of knowledge and comprehension. In fact, memorial
mania is simultaneous with an experiential turn in contemporary American understandings
of history, memory, and identity.

Consider, for example, heightened interest today in
experiencing history.
In Civil War battle reenactments, where players dress, eat, and talk like long-dead Union
or Confederate soldiers.
Or consider the growth of interactive museum exhibitions, like the National World War I
museum in Kansas City, a truly incredible museum completely refurbished in just the
last few years, now full of high-tech bells and whistles, a glass bridge suspended over
a field of 9,000 artificial poppies, each one representing a thousand US soldiers killed
in that war.
Simulated trenches filled with gas masks, weapons, and helmets, and an amazing 20-minute
spectacle involving film clips, battle sounds, and flashes of colored light projected above
a life-sized diorama of shell-shocked soldiers trudging through the muddy moonscape of the
western front.
As a visitor to the museum, you sit behind the wall that you see over on the right, and
it's truly an amazing spectacle.

Today, visceral modes of experience are regarded as primary
vehicles of knowledge acquisition.
Some historians argue, in fact, that new forms of public cultural memory and mass technology,
what we might call prosthetic memory, enable anybody to personally experience the past,
no matter how remote or distant or traumatic.
Of course, as historian Joan Scott argues, discourses of experience are both illuminating
and highly problematic.
They give visibility to often-marginalized historical subjects, but they also buffer
those subjects from critique.
An experience is understood as authentic, or is essentially reproduced as fact.
The key, argues Joan Scott, is to attend the historical processes that through discourse
position subjects and produce their experiences.
It's not individuals who have experience, but subjects who are constituted through experience.


So as a cultural historian, I'm especially interested in the role that memorials play
in the fabrication of what we might call public subjectivity, or American identity.
And I'm particularly interested in uncovering this on affective terms.
So my new book, Memorial Mania, argues that memorials are essentially archives of feeling
that are encoded in their form, their content, and the practices that surround their production
and reception.
By that I mean how we go to memorials, what we do when we're there, how we physically
and emotionally respond to them.
The word "affect" stems from the Latin affectus, meaning to afflict or to touch.
I think it's probably best understood as physically expressed emotion, or feeling.
And it's probably most familiar in psychoanalytic circles that it's very useful, I think, to
understanding the fraught dynamics of public culture today.
Memorial mania is shaped by all sorts of public feelings in America.
Increasing numbers of temporary memorials—for example, including shrines erected at the
sites of car accidents and public school shootings—suggest how new understandings of grief, mourning,
and citizenship are being framed in America today.

Memorials that commemorate the victims
of terrorism, such as the Lockerbie cairn, the Oklahoma City national memorial, and growing
numbers of 9/11 memorials, simultaneously employ widespread fears about the state of
the nation and equally emotional narratives about social stability, civil unity, and national
security.
Likewise, we see a growing body of what we might call shame-faced memorials, including
those that address the subjects of slavery and lynching.
These sorts of memorials not only challenge standard accounts of a progressive national
history, they raise questions about how to remember, how to represent, and perhaps how
to redeem the nation's shameful histories of racial violence and intolerance.

And memorials
like the Indian memorial in Montana, a series of memorials that pay tribute to Spanish conquistador
Juan de Onate in New Mexico and Texas, and the forthcoming Martin Luther King memorial
in Washington, all new memorials speak to the intersections I think of revisionist history,
foundation myths, and anger in contemporary America.
Feelings of anger, among other feelings, I think are omnipresent.
Contrary to some sort of vision of a rational, collective public sphere in which sensible
citizens exchange ideas and unite in progressive action, America's public life today is marked
by highly emotional appeals and affective conditions.
I think in particular the images I've got over here on the left are very familiar to
us in the last couple of weeks.
I mean, consider how public feelings have been mobilized and manipulated in today's
debates over health care, but also in recent elections and in ongoing debates over abortion,
immigration, and the war on terror.

I want to say this, too: These affective dimensions
don't foreclose the possibilities of social and political transformation.
But I think they do beg, and Lauren Berlant argues this, for what we might call a critical
realm of the senses, a critical pedagogy, a public feeling, which begins by recognizing
how and which and why certain feelings shape historical moments—concepts of citizenship
and understandings of both self and national identity.
Feelings of fear, especially fear of terrorism, have tended to dominate contemporary understandings
of identity in recent years.
They've certainly dominated contemporary political discourse, from George W. Bush's post-9/11
declaration that his primary focus was to rout terror wherever it exists, to the Justice
Department stating that protecting Americans against the threat of terrorism was their
strategic goal number one.
Coverage of the war on terror has dominated mass media, those color-coded terror alerts
dominate American public movement; we have been at Code Orange for as long as I can remember.
And it dominates public feeling. A survey just a few years ago by the National Center
for Disaster Preparedness found that more than three-fourths of Americans were concerned
that there will be more terror attacks on the United States, but less than half had
confidence in the government's ability to protect them from those attacks.

These sorts
of national anxieties about terrorism are understandable because terrorism is repeatedly
framed on national terms, as an attack on America.
Although people from 92 countries were killed in the attacks on the Twin Towers in 2001,
their deaths were obscured within a largely uncontested appraisal of the World Trade Center
as a symbol of only America, and of the attacks on New York as attacks on the entire nation.
Further characterized as a national trauma, 9/11 was perceived as an assault on American
innocence, and I think this is represented best in the crying eagle image that we see
on the right, which was very popular in bumper stickers and t-shirts.
An image that represents the devastating blow of 9/11 that victimized all Americans, and
also mandated their shared therapeutic recourse perhaps in the war on terror.

This sort of
sweeping presumptive about the nation transforms all Americans into the subject of a collective
history.
Local tragedies become the index of an official national culture, and acknowledging them becomes
our national responsibility.
As Bill Clinton described this terrorism memorial in Oklahoma City, this tragedy was a national
one, and the memorial should be recognized and embraced and supported by the nation.


Now, for politicians, terrorism memorials are obviously ideological rallying grounds.
For family members and survivors, they're sacred sites of bereavement and often burial.
For millions of tourists, they're authentic destinations marked by tragic death and traumatic
loss. Critic Lucy Lippard describes this as tragic tourism.
And terrorism memorials are among the most visited memorials in America.
They're also among America's top tourist attractions.
Over 600,000 people tour the Oklahoma City National Memorial every year, and estimates
are that there will be more than 7 million annual visitors to the World Trade Center
memorial once it finally opens.

What do they experience when they're there?
Well, first of all terrorism's threat to self and nation is managed in these memorials through
particular design elements and textual references that stress security and stability.
Many of these memorials share, for example, what we might call a redefined minimalist
aesthetic that manipulates normal understandings of space and time in order to evoke trauma's
dissociative affects of fear and anxiety.
As you look at these slides, you notice towering monoliths, angled walls, recessed forms, reflective
surfaces, and gridded units strewn throughout really really large spaces.
All of this helps to give these memorials this disconcerting impression.
They also have pits, voids, and sort of an aesthetic of absence that furthers their destabilizing
sensibility.
And there's especially this tension between how big they are and also this emphasis on
how we are to experience them on intimate terms.
Note that the tomb-like gates of the Oklahoma City national memorial frame both the actual
physical location where the people died, and the moment of the blast that killed them,
9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995.
The east gate reads 9:01 and the west gate reads 9:03, meaning that Oklahoma's memorial
recreates and we re-experience the temporal and spatial dislocation of this terrorist
act.

But each one of these gates is also etched with the memorial's mission statement,
which reads, "We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived, and those
changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial
offer comfort, strength, peace, hope, and serenity."
Terrorism memorials are also framed, in other words, by therapeutic notions that trauma
can be represented and must be cured.
So we have an affirmation of hope, healing, renewal, and closure in design elements such
as reflecting pools, waterfalls, manicured lawns, and clusters of trees.
At night, for example, the glass bases of the chairs at the Oklahoma City memorial are
illuminated by small lights that the designers describe as "beacons of hope that will inspire
Oklahoma city, the state, and the nation to rebuild and prepare for tomorrow."

However
informed by notions of traumatic disruption, terrorism memorials are intended to be lasting,
fixed, and very selective national narratives.
Manifest in nervousness, uncertainty, and blind resentment, fear is an untenable state
of insecurity that neither the self nor the nation can tolerate, and these memorials go
about their way in order to assuage that.
The violation of safe spaces where we are not afraid—and those are the home, the office,
public parks—the violation of these safe spaces is very jarring, and efforts to restore
them very quick.
I think this helps to explain how less than a month after 9/11, the Department of Homeland
Security was created.
Of course, as Amy Kaplan writes, the very formation of such a society works to create
forms of radical insecurity by proliferating threats of the foreign lurking within and
without national borders.

Implicit within this narrative of security is the sense that
the self and the nation are at risk, in danger.
So security narratives—and I know that an upcoming Saturday Scholars talk by a professor
in the political science department will also be focusing on issues of security—security
narratives embody efforts to control these threats, these ideas about fear and danger,
to prevent their repetition and to restore harmony and order, to work through the trauma
of terror.
While anchored in specific historic realities like 9/11, terrorism memorials thus focus
on explaining danger and resolving it.
Paradoxically, of course, they also depend on generating it by feeding crisis and perpetuating
national insecurities.

Security narratives of national unity, innocence, and heroic sacrifice
repeatedly symbolized with images of eagles and children are typically employed in quite
a few 9/11 memorials today.
Innocence has long been central in the American understanding of itself, liberating the nation
and its citizens from perhaps a legacy of historical and moral misdeeds, sustaining
a state of blissful ignorance, what one scholar calls infantile citizenship.
Assumptions of national innocence permit a lack of culpability in matters that require
adult moral agency.
And they also encourage a self-righteous consensus that pits American exceptionalism against
an evil outside world.
I want to make this point clear: there is an enormous difference between the trope of
national innocence, and the actual number and murder of innocents, the people who died
in the bombing of Oklahoma's federal building, and the people who were killed in the attacks
on the World Trade Center and in Pennsylvania and the Pentagon, on September 11, 2001, absolutely
innocent victims of horrific acts of terrorism.
Yet from the moment of their murders, their deaths were manipulated to sustain politicized
assumptions of national innocence and to legitimate national security agendas of recovery and
revenge.

In the fall of 2005, I visited the temporary memorial for Flight 93, which is
still up and running.
They are building the permanent memorial, but they say that they're going to keep the
temporary memorial at the same time.
Parking lot railings at this site were covered in handwritten slogans, such as "God bless
America," "I love my soldier."
Bumper stickers reading "United We Stand," "It's not just a flag, it's a way of life."
Many of the SUVs at the site similarly featured vinyl stickers stenciled with yellow remembrance
ribbons with the words "support our troops."
As political scientist Michael Billing observes, these familiar forms of what he calls "banal
nationalism" prompt the presence and power of the American state.
Daily, the nation is indicated or flagged in the power and the lives of its citizenry.
Nationalism, far from being an intermittent mood, is the endemic condition.
At Shanksville, a site of tragic death was reframed in terms of flag-waving vengeance,
political self-righteousness, and fundamentalist Christianity.
Other bumper stickers at the site, for example, read "Red State Insurgency," and "Back to
the Bible or back to the jungle," which I really don't understand.
So, if you have any suggestions on what that might actually mean ...
The temporary memorial itself included a large wooden cross surrounded by American flags
and religious mementos.

Other 9/11 memorials include pieces of the World Trade Center.
New York gave away tons of steel I-beams and other scraps to hundreds of towns anxious
to acquire genuine artifacts from Ground Zero.
Justifying his town's request for a piece of the Twin Towers, the mayor of Lake Charles,
Louisiana, said, "Well, why wouldn't we? 9/11 didn't just happen to New York, it happened
to all America."
He managed to obtain debris from both the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and explained
that "these pieces of history are visible reminders of the tragedy of 9/11," and that
his town would use them as symbols of the strength, determination, and resolve which
unites us as one nation.

For many Americans, the mangled remains of the Twin Towers are
potent cultural touchstones that embody national pain and sacrifice, and also take on the sacrosanct
dimension of holy relics.
As one California mayor put it, "sometimes it takes a physical reminder to convey the
spiritual feeling you have for an incident. It speaks to your soul."
Some 9/11 memorials have been expressly consecrated; chunks of steel acquired by Albuquerque's
Sacred Heart Church were blessed with sacred oil by the Roman Catholic bishop there.

Sacred
symbols of loss and sorrow, these venerated artifacts are also informed by narratives
of national rage and revenge.
We want people to feel the relics that are washed in the blood of innocents.
We want people to recognize the horror, understand the sorrow, the righteous wrath, the resolve,
the remembrance, say the designers of this memorial in Austin at the Texas State Cemetery.
This one features iron girders salvaged from Ground Zero, and text from President Bush's
address to the nation on October 7, 2001, when he announced the start of Operation Enduring
Freedom and declared, "We will not waiver, we will not tire, we will not falter, we will
not fail. Peace and freedom will prevail."

Nine-eleven relics helped sanction the war
on terror.
At a Kid Rock concert for U.S. troops in Iraq in 2003, a piece of recovered metal from the
World Trade Center was passed among soldiers who, one observer related, lunged at the opportunity
to touch the steel that symbolized what so many of them felt was the purpose of their
mission.
Similarly, at a pro-war rally held near Ground Zero a month after U.S. Marines toppled the
statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, which we see on the left, New York Governor George
Pataki told the crowd, "Let's melt it down.
"Let's bring it to New York, and let's put it in one of the girders that's going to rise
over here as a symbol of the rebuilding of New York and the rebuilding of America. The
war started here on September 11, 2001."

Fusing sacred relics of 9/11 with notions of unity,
innocence, and sacrifice, many 9/11 memorials frame the memory and meaning of 9/11 in terms
of righteous American military retaliation.
Note the American eagle grasping a piece of World Trade Center steel in its talons on
the right.
Now, some 9/11 memorials simply employ a pseudo-minimalist aesthetic.
Green Bay mounted this 9/11 World Trade Center memorial.
It features two 30-foot stainless steel towers on a pentagon-shaped base, which is inscribed
with the names of the 9/11 dead.
This abstract memorial replaced the longstanding and much-loved fiberglass statue of the Green
Bay Packer receiver that we see over here on the right, which was moved down the road
to a local brewpub. Poor thing.
This memorial in New Mexico similarly consists of unmodulated geometrical forms, vertical
shafts of marble, quintets of granite that emulate the Twin Towers and Pentagon, albeit
on a miniscule scale.
Other memorials employ what we might call an aesthetic of verisimilitude that legitimates
their reverential and romantic narratives as authentic history.

This precisely modeled
bronze sculpture of a 9/11 rescue dog features a dramatically posed German Shepherd on an
I-beam, outfitted in protective vest and booties, intently searching for survivors in World
Trade Center rubble.
This eight-foot sculpture includes debris from Ground Zero and commemorates the heroic
"willingness and loyalty of 9/11 rescue personnel, animal and human."
Likewise, this sculpture, "We shall never forget," features bronze figures of a stock
broker talking on a cell phone, a fireman, a police officer, an emergency med tech, and
a rescue dog all posed on a pedestal featuring the words "Hope, Bravery, and Peace."
Now, these memorials imply that figurative commemoration of 9/11 is attached to narratives
of heroism, courage, and survival.

By contrast, consider "Tumbling Woman," a larger-than-life-sized
bronze of a naked woman in perpetual free-fall that artist Eric Fischl sculpted to honor
a friend who worked on the North Tower's 106th floor.
Intended for temporary public display at Rockefeller Center on the lower level there, "Tumbling
Woman" was seen for just eight days in September 2001 before it was screened off and then eventually
removed for being what local journalists called "shameful" and "exploitative."
A few weeks later in a New York Times op-ed titled "A Memorial That's True to 9/11," Eric
Fischl the artist observed, "The experience of 9/11 led me to think about what constitutes
an appropriate expression for tragedy.
"As an artist and an American, one question still preoccupies me: If we cannot face what
happened, how can we move past?"
Yet his realistic portrait of vulnerability and loss, and probably the actual circumstance
of death for many in the Twin Towers, was deemed aberrant in a post-9/11 America that
prefers narratives of heroic rescue and survival.

Many 9/11 memorials, for example, eulogize first
responders, as police, firemen, and emergency medical workers are now called.
As historian Elaine Tyler May observes, "Contemporary anxieties about national security have not
only created new heroes among firefighters and law enforcement officials but have revitalized
Cold War gender constructions of heroic men and dependent women."
One-third of those who died in the World Trade Center were female, a number which includes
several female first responders, but most 9/11 memorials reify an image of reinvigorated
manhood.

They also promote an American civil religion of blood sacrifice, of spilling blood
for the nation and helping create community and also flush that community of trauma.
Flight 93's temporary memorial is thick with this sort of blood sacrifice sentiment, with
signs declaring, "God bless the heroes of Flight 93," and "93, you made us believe in
heroes."
Other offerings at the site included a wooden plaque that proclaimed, "We will never forget
your sacrifice so that others may live."
And an image of an airplane, and we see this here on the left, framed by the words "The
heroes of Flight 93 will never be forgotten. Pennsylvania is proud of its 40 new residents."
Flight 93's permanent memorial, which is really large—a 2,200-acre site—is guided by the
slogan "A common field one day, a field of honor forever."
As its mission statement reads, "May all who visit this place remember the collective acts
of courage and sacrifice of the passengers and crew.
"Revere this hallowed ground as the final resting place of these heroes, and reflect
on the power of individuals who choose to make a difference."

Flight recordings suggest
that Flight 93's passengers and crew did band together to foil the terrorists who had seized
their plane, although speculation persists about the course of their doomed flight. "Let's
roll!"
The legendary call to arms announced by one passenger and then later used by President
Bush to justify U.S. bombing in Afghanistan, was probably, the 9/11 Commission found, the
phrase "roll it," and referred to moving an aisle-blocking airplane service cart.
This has not altered legendary accounts of Flight 93's collective acts of courage and
sacrifice, and we see this in movies, books, and memorials.
As Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge put it in 2002, "America is grateful to the 40
victims who won the first battle in this war on terror," adding, "they met the challenge
like citizen soldiers, like Americans."
Not all of those who were murdered on Flight 93 were American.
One passenger was Japanese, one was German, yet Ridge's phrase "citizen soldiers" aligns
them with U.S. troops celebrated in Stephen Ambrose's popular history of World War II,
also called Citizen Soldiers, and similarly casts the war on terror as a good war.

The
blood sacrifice of American victims of terror is honored as well in Congress.
In 2003, the House passed the True American Heroes Act, which awarded Congressional Defense
of Freedom medals to every government employee killed in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon
on 9/11, and every passenger and crew member on Flight 93.
To be sure, heroic response to danger rather than passive acceptance is a preferred personal
and national narrative.
But sweeping assumptions of collective national courage undermine the heroic acts of individuals,
and reinforce assumptions of national innocence.

Memorial mania is complicated further by competing
notions of what to remember and how to manage those memories.
This is especially the case with 9/11. Initially, the attacks of 9/11 generated a sweeping sense
of national unity.
Glued to our TVs and computer screens, Americans were uniformly unable to stop looking at repeatedly
visualized images of crashing planes and dark clouds of smoke.
These images helped create a national narrative of fear that cast all Americans as the traumatized
participants in a three-act performance.
First, as the victims and/or survivors of an attack on the nation.
Second, as rescuers responding to the tragedy through a truly enormous and highly impressive
collective demonstration of help and generosity; offerings of money, of blood, of aid.
And third, as flag-waving patriots vowing revenge.
Yet even as the third act was being staged, national unity began to disintegrate as some
Americans began to ask why 9/11 had happened, and began to question the government's response
such as the quick manufacture of the Patriot Act.
A recent survey, for example, finds that more than one in three Americans believe that the
federal government itself had a hand in orchestrating the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Today, while
the shocking imagery of 9/11 remains fixed and perhaps fetishized in the American national
consciousness, there is no shared narrative about 9/11, which means that its representation
is contested.
Consider the conflict over representing New York's first responders.
Early plans involved commemorating the 343 firefighters who died at the World Trade Center
with a monumental bronze statue based on the photograph by Tom Franklin of the three of
them hoisting an American flag at Ground Zero.
This was 9/11's version of Iwo Jima.
But those plans were scuttled because the proposed sculpture showed them on multiracial terms: white, Hispanic,
and black, rather than the all-white guys they really were, like 94% of New York's fire
department.
Bombarded with complaints of political correctness and rewriting history, the donor who had said
he wanted to honor all of the firefighters who died on 9/11, including 24 people of color,
withdrew his commission.
The heroic firefighter trio said they were disappointed that the memorial had become
something political, as opposed to historical.

Becoming something crassly commercial, however, was
just fine.
And the vast merchandising of Franklin's photo, and I show some examples here, drew little
or no debate, save that perhaps among lawyers haggling over issues of intellectual property
and profit.
Reproduced on t-shirts, teddy bears, snow boards, Christmas ornaments, humidors, pocket
watches, pocket knives, bank checks, jigsaw puzzles, pajamas, and phone cards -- the image
was also recreated by Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in a multimedia extravaganza called
"Tribute to the Heroes of 9/11," which opened in 2002 in Times Square and then traveled
to several theme parks.
For high-end customers, 40-inch bronzes, and these are $10,000 each, titled "To Lift a
Nation," are also available.

As Marita Sturken observes in her recent book Tourist of History,
"The attacks of 9/11 produced a frenzied consumer response to the fear of terror, enabling a
widespread consumption of security.
Yet controversy over an all-white representation of Tom Franklin's iconic security narrative,
I think, reveals the really unsettled terms of how 9/11 is remembered and managed today."

Finally,
these angry public feelings about terrorism memorials, whether firefighters in New York,
or Islamofascist crescents at the Flight 93 memorial in Pennsylvania, are indicative of
a national pathology about 9/11 itself.
Memorializing 9/11 is beset by our inability to conceptualize 9/11 on discursive rather
than fractious terms, and these terms are repeatedly driven by fear, by anger, and by
narratives of security.
Americans do want to visibly mourn, to memorialize, the victims of terrorism.
A recent survey showed that 94% of those polled felt that a 9/11 memorial should be built
at the new World Trade Center, and really interestingly, 65% of them felt that every
American should visit it once it was built.
Perhaps the answer, then, lies in memorials that hold a presence for their subjects without
reifying tropes of innocence, military retaliation, blood sacrifice, even racism, but that is
the subject for another talk.
Thank you.


[QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION]

[questioner inaudible]

A. I know there are
lots in the art world, so work is being done by artists. But when it comes down to public
culture, public art, there's very little public art that actually focuses on pain, or the
act of death itself.

[questioner inaudible]

A. In terms of the memorials that are being created?
That's a great question. I'm not sure.
I think that folks who are engaged in memorial building are actually louder. There's a sense
that when we make a memorial and put it in the public sphere, you want your story told.
So, you are claiming the public sphere for your story. What we do in private, separate,
that's different.

Q. When I was a child in the '60s, John Kennedy was shot, and there
was the eternal flame and that was sort of the first thing that was outside the box.
My father being one of the "greatest generation," all he ever did was go to cemeteries and there
would be a few statues in public parks, but these personal makeshift memorials, do you
have any thoughts as to how this evolved in our culture?

A. I actually would start with
statue mania. Statue mania is something that swept America and Europe in the 19th century.
Then this idea that there are more memorials being made today?
I think we can all question that to a degree, because there have been plenty of memorials
that have been made throughout time, particular moments in time.
I think the Kennedy assassination was a perfect example. It depends on what we mean by memorial.
If we're simply talking about outdoor public park, it's one thing. But the Kennedy memorialization
was accompanied by—remember the LIFE magazine special issue that came out?
The commemorative plates, etc. So memorial-making obviously has a lot to do with consumer capital,
what can be made to become a memorial.
I'm fascinated with, for example, the Lincoln assassination, which also was accompanied
by weeks of memorializations—special trains, special costuming that people wore as they
watched the train go through their home towns.
So a lot of what is going on today does have historical precedence.

Q. So your premise
is that it really hasn't changed much, that just the form of it has changed?

A. I'm arguing
that there is historical precedence, but there's more, and I think the tones are angrier.
I also think that there are particular groups—we might call them factions, we might call them
groups—that feel self-entitled that have increasing power in the public sphere to put
out their memorials.
And so much of the book actually deals with different groups of people and their different
approaches to the public sphere.

[question mostly inaudible]

A. That's a good point.
Certainly memorial making is not something that's just going on in the United States.
There are complaints about memorial making in Germany.
There are lots of interesting memorials that are being made in Europe that are also what
I would call shame faced—lots of European countries coming to terms with their own historical
transgressions in the historical past.
But how Spain and England have responded to terrorist attacks in recent years is very
different from the ways in which Americans have responded.
Many of the memorials that were made were temporary, many of the memorials also focused
on "we're not going to be terrorized."
That was sort of the response in England following the bombings in July. There was a "we are
not afraid" sort of movement that emerged very quickly on websites. There's a different
tone, perhaps.

[question mostly inaudible]
Audible part of question: Collectively they
were told or informed or felt they should not make any big deal about that fall of the
Wall, because the Wall was a part of a larger history that Germany had brought on itself.
Could there be an American sense of its own feeling of other people, maybe race issues,
in its history [inaudible] besides just the moment?

A. Sure. I think that these particular
kind of people who actually admit that they've done something wrong, or that the past wasn't
as stellar and golden, and in many ways get by in a sort of growing-up model of Americans
and the American country and the American people, so maybe we're heading there to some
adult moments in which we're admitting to the transgressions in the past.
But I'm not so sure this is as sweeping as it is elsewhere. [last sentence inaudible].

Q.
I was wondering why it took so long for a World War II memorial to be raised?

A. Good
question. I think because there were a lot of misassumptions that World War II memorials
didn't already exist.
Right after World War II, there was the idea that we are not going to build anymore, and
this was all over the United States.
We're not going to build any more statues; we don't need any more war memorials.
Let's build something called "living memorials."
And so in so many American towns, we've had auditoriums, rec centers, all kinds of publicly
useful and functional spaces were built, projects that, perhaps, were deterred by depression
and war.
And they were called "memorial auditorium," "memorial high school," and for a lot of folks
they saw those as World War II memorials, and many of them have plaques on them listing
the servicemen who passed away in that war.
However, the Vietnam Memorial was dedicated in the early '80s, and the Korean memorial
in the mid-'90s, brought people thinking: we need a national memorial in Washington
on the National Mall like those.
And so, there were—are—hundreds of World War II memorials in this country.
And one might even say that the Iwo Jima memorial in Arlington, Virginia, the Marine Corps memorial,
is THE World War II memorial.
Very few people go to that memorial and think, "Well, it's just for the Marines."
We go there and we think "World War II."
But it did generate a lot of comment for a lot of people who got engaged in this, Tom
Brokaw and Tom Hanks, etc. Funding came together, and that's how it got done.

[question inaudible]

A.
I don't know about Putin's involvement in the big statue that you're talking about.
I know that there was a Russian émigré artist who for years and years wanted to have this
sculpture in New Jersey that he had already made.
And when 9/11 happened said, "Hey, I've got a 9/11 memorial."

In Pennsylvania, the memorial
has had progress.
Just a few days ago, the U.S. government announced that it has now officially seized or purchased
all the land they need to build the memorial.
The reason it's so big is that it's a former strip-mine site, so they've had to do a lot
of management of the land. It's also going to be wetlands. It's a 2,200 acre site, and
they're in the process of building it and getting the details.

Every one of these
sites—in New York, Pennsylvania, though Washington is done—are under the mandate
to get this thing done by the 10-year anniversary, but I don't know that it's actually going
to happen right away.
The temporary memorial is open and available, and you can go visit it. They even built an
off ramp from the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

As for the crescent, it wasn't really a crescent;
it was a bunch of maples. And who cares about the crescent?
I mean, we use it in the flag of South Carolina.
But the artist changed the design and came up with a whole circle of red maples. But
that still hasn't satisfied the anti-memorial people who are really kind of interesting.
They are out there in terms of seeing all this Islamo-fascism in this memorial.
The families of those who died on the plane are so sick of this and are saying, "Can we
get past this? Can we just get the memorial done with?"