The Dept. of Lost Objects

When George W. Bush talks about collateral damage, is he including the destruction of art and architecture? Of course, it's not the first thing on anyone's mind, but eventually it will not be inappropriate to talk about cultural loss as well as human loss.

Various news articles put a $10 million price tag on works in or around the towers that were destroyed in the terrorist attacks. These works include sculptures by Alexander Calder and Louise Nevelson, a tapestry by Joan Miró, and a painting by Roy Lichtenstein--and the reports are just beginning to come in. People are beginning to speculate, in the interstitial moments that disbelief allows, about the future direction of public art, in New York and nationwide. Tom Eccles, the director of New York's Public Art Fund, noted on the Americans for the Arts website, "For years we moved away from the concept of public art as memorial. Now it will be difficult to be humorous or ironic."

Then, of course, there are the twin towers themselves. Perhaps it's an issue of displaced grief, but I find their loss intolerable. When, at the age of 13, I finally ventured alone out of the neat provincial grid of uptown Manhattan into downtown's anarchic layout, the World Trade Center became my compass. It's how I always knew where I was and where I was going.

The architectural strength of the twin towers was contained not only in their stark, modern facades--a steel frame with a glass curtain wall--but in their twin-ness. It was a structure that intimidated not simply by its height (until the advent of Chicago's Sears Tower in 1974, they were the tallest buildings in the world), but in the impact of its double exclamation points. The towers were designed by architect Minoru Yamasaki (and here comes the "Northwest Connection"), a Seattle native who based their structures on our own IBM Building on the southeast corner of Fifth Avenue and University Street.

Like so many landmarks, the World Trade Center aroused various feelings along the continuum from reviled to loved. During the towers' construction, from 1966 to 1977, New Yorkers complained: the buildings were hideous, they ruined the skyline. Then they became part of the landscape. And now they're gone.

That's Okay--We Stayed Home and Watched TV

The New York Times' Arts & Leisure Weekend (as reported in In Arts News, Aug 16), which was to have taken place September 14 through 16, has been postponed for obvious reasons. The festival featured free-admission days at selected museums nationwide; the Times advises that "people holding Arts & Leisure passes for access to museums and other cultural attractions for this weekend should contact those institutions directly." New dates will be announced soon.

Nuggets from the Dark (and Cold) World of Film

Microcinema, Inc. has announced that the film series Independent Exposure (video and digital short films) will be shown at Antarctica's McMurdo Station throughout the polar summer. ... In a gleeful press release, Debbie Girdwood made it known that she is leaving her post as Northwest Film Forum's Director of Cinema Programs. She'll remain involved as a member of the NWFF board, and will be working on her own film with The Stranger's former film editor Jamie Hook. ... Alpha Cine Labs has endowed a new award to be presented at the 2002 Seattle International Film Festival: The Alpha Cine Filmmaker Award will provide funds for transferring a finished feature from digital or Super 16mm format onto 35mm film. Sounds like small potatoes, but it's valued at about $100,000--the largest such award at a North American film festival.

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