The Witnessing Eye

Artists Document the World Trade Center's Demise

One year before the 9-11 disaster, Kristin Lucas was an artist in residence at the north tower, working on a piece about ghost-watching at the World Trade Center—Encounters of the WTC-Kind. It was then that she set up her Web site,, featuring ghosts with cell phones.

Lucas has long been interested in electronic emissions, "the invisible fields you operate in every day," and she considered the World Trade Center to be their epicenter, emitting countless TV and radio waves, for one thing. She always noticed people talking about how the building created distortion on their cell phones. She also thought the place haunted, maybe because her studio was near the elevators and they howled. The freight elevators, not the ones with the humans. It was spooky. Then, the artists were always on an unfinished floor, a "hollow" floor. And she was always very conscious of the first terrorist strike. "After the '93 bombing, I was thinking of the invisible, wondering if we could communicate with these waveforms."

But Lucas was especially fascinated by the WTC sub-basement, when Robert "Bob" Lynch, a property manager for the Port Authority, gave the artists a tour. (Lynch was last seen in the south tower on 9-11, evacuating people to safety.) "The towers were very impersonal, but in the basement there was all this heart and soul. That stood out to me. You'd see thin layers of paint and the old graffiti behind it." Lucas taped down there, then grabbed stills for her video Five Minute Break, in which an avatar—a sort of powerless Lara Croft—tries to navigate an underworld where signs lead nowhere and doors don't open.

From Five Minute Break: the background was shot in a wtc sub-basement a year before 9-11.
photo: Kristin Lucas
From Five Minute Break: the background was shot in a wtc sub-basement a year before 9-11.

Now, of course, it all seems bizarrely prescient—like Michael Richards's sculptures of pilots falling from the sky.

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