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monument to a 9/11 funerary monument


funerary monument commemorating the dead at the World Trade Towersfunerary monument commemorating the dead at the World Trade Towers
This is / was my 2002 proposal for a funerary monument commemorating the dead at the World Trade Towers site. Needless to say, it was not accepted. So I post it again here now on the 10 anniversary as a sort of conceptual monument to a non-monument.


This posting is an introductory proposal for an intimate monument and funerary site commemorating the tragic death of all the victims of the World Trade Tower devastation for general consideration.

First, I should tell you that I am a New York City artist. However, I conceived of this sculptural tombeaux configuration while in the cemetery of a very small village in France while re-calling my experiences of standing on the outside terrace of the World Trade Tower and looking down on all the buildings which make up New York City and New Jersey (they looked quite Lilliputian). On that terrace the word “awesome” apply pertained to what I was seeing and feeling. In the poignant monument I am proposing here, this lofty and sublime feeling is collapsed into a very intimate repose between those awesome airy heights and the thoroughly compact earth which supports us and our structures.

An expanded version of this tombeaux sculptural idea - in its function as a monument commemorating the tragic death of all the victims of the World Trade Towers tragedy - would be constructed either out of hand-cut veined marble or cast from remains of the World Trade Towers. There would be one block for each victim’s life lost.

As the height of the individual blocks differs to some degree, no individual names should be connected to the individual blocks. This information is softly conveyed through an audio emission emanating throughout the waiting area.

I executed the maquette out of wood and Xeroxed paper back in New York City and publicly exhibited it in 1992 here as part of my solo exhibition which was held at Brooke Alexander Gallery. The show was entitled “Tombeaux”. This maquette, which is made up of about 150 blocks, measures around 10 feet in diameter. Naturally, with close to 3,000 blocks, the 9/11 monument grows to an impressive span.

The primary symbolism of this monument form consists in its equating the tall buildings of New York with the childhood start of each and every victim who died at the World Trade Towers. From a religious/spiritual perspective, the monument is all-inclusive. It too is inclusive from a national identity perspective - inclusive of all the nations who suffered deadly loss on 9/11.

Here is how the funerary monument functions. Only one person at a time passes in and out of the monument through the narrow footpath which leads to the small bench. This person - who carefully has followed the narrow path in-between the field of blocks - now towers above this textured field while still standing upright. As one turns round and bends reverently down to sit on the bench, there is a sense of childhood fragility felt.

Quietly and respectfully sitting on the bench and looking down over this field of rectangular forms of varying heights, the person will, I think, sense alternatively an unaccustomed feeling both mournful, brave, and childishly optimistic. Down here on the bench among the blocks one sees and feels that ‘the city is the people’…. that people, given their juvenile origins and adolescent dreams, are what is important in the city.

An important emotional aspect of this proposal arises out of the fact that it is immersive. The immersive level of involvement (which has the power to change the way people feel) has been an efficacious impulse since prehistoric times - occasioning elegant sacred mounds and evocative funerary temples. This experience was aptly demonstrated to me on my visit in 1995 to a prehistoric immersive funerary space built atop a small hilltop in Ireland called Newgrange. Newgrange is a stone and turf mound about 280 feet in diameter and 44 feet high (in restored form) which contains a thin passage leading to the central apse-like burial chamber. Entry into its inner space was arduous. It was not a long passage, but a difficult one, because one must slither through a very narrow passage corridor before reaching the pivotal opening. Once there, it provided me with a substantial emotional experience which focused my thoughts on the sad sacredness of Thantos.

The size of the NYC 9/11 tombeaux which I am proposing would be fairly modest, as would be its expense. In this sense I would hope that future terrorists would not find it a loaded symbol beckoning attack.

I feel that the emotional ambiance created there would be somber and respectful, particularly given the intimate scale and its immersive conceptual closeness to the remembrance of the early days of the victims. Yet there is intrinsic grandeur in the site too, as each victim’s death is awarded the symbolic stature of a New York City building.


For my www proposal for this funerary monument commemorating the dead at the World Trade Towers site please see:

Tombeaux maquette (front view).jpg226.86 KB
nechv_wiley_911.jpg655.8 KB