30 Sep

In Save Manhattan 02 (2009), Mounir Fatmi has remade the pre-9/11 New York skyline on a table out of stacked VHS tapes. Ribbons of magnetic tape have been yanked out of the cases and trail down to the floor, where they fall in drifts still attached to the buildings above them. Rhizome posted this a few days ago.

We’ve talked in class about embodiment, and “the poor image.” This work seems to comment on those ideas, making us think about the physicality of analog tape, unmatched in digital methods of recording. The stacked skyline references a nostalgia for that time when recorded memories were an (apparently) uncomplicated Thing that could be touched and held. At the same time, whatever was on those tapes is now irretrievable, because they’ve been gutted. Violence has been done to the images on the tapes, stripping them of their previous context. 9/11 brought violence to New York and the world, in the physical way as well as in image form. With “02” in the title of this work, we think about 2002 and the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when it seemed like a certain lifestyle had maybe vanished forever.

Still, we can see that the World Trade Center of Videotape is still standing. The forms of contemporary Western living have continued, although their content/context may have fundamentally changed. The artist references these ideas about the impact of 9/11 as a way to think about the effects of digital media on this culture.

With the onset of digital media, all our old analog recordings might as well have melted with the Twin Towers. We have a hard time using those objects in the way they were intended. As they become less and less useful, we may start to savor their aesthetic qualities, nostalgically but also repurposing them as “new things.” The piles of videotape on the floor imply destroyed images here, but the piles themselves are visually compelling in their own right. The memories they contained are now ephemeral, sort of like how digital media is.

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