On September 11, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s World Views studio program on the 92nd floor of the World Trade Center’s Tower One lost artist Michael Richards, along with 10,000 feet of studio space and all the artwork within. Forget about working in a vacuum—how does one create in a black hole? Thanks to the New Museum, the World Views artists have the unprecedented chance to show us how lost artworks are not so much rebuilt as reincarnated through a combination of memory, bits of documentation, and painstaking labor.
Most of the work on view was made in the past three months, but to say that these artists were starting from scratch is not quite accurate. Several have video footage of the towers’ views and interiors, which they incorporate into haunting work. Laurie Halsey Brown projects now unreal harbor vistas onto propped-up sheets of glass, while Justine Cooper translates Tower One’s light patterns into a DNA-based installation—a gesture that amounts to passing on the building’s genes.
Among the artists who had to begin—so to speak—at ground zero, an elegiac mood prevails. In Kara Hammond’s drawings from memory of Tower One interiors, graphite shading carries unexpected weight. Iranian-born Mahmoud Hamadani’s Ode to New York resembles a crumpled Sol LeWitt, its white open cubes piled together at haphazard angles.
To judge from the number of architectural motifs, the WTC buildings dominated the studio experience as they did the New York skyline. The only piece to feature a human element is Carola Dertnig’s Revolving Door. In this nine-minute video of a Trade Center entrance on a typical day before 9-11, commuters shuffle around, bumping into one another and struggling with luggage. It’s this simple ground-level scene that looms largest, something utterly quotidian made suddenly monumental.