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9/11: A Most Restless Event

The video below was produced between the Fall of 2001 and the Spring of 2002. It was first screened as a final project for the class Semiotics for Digital Producers, taught by professor Paul Ryan, as part of the graduate program in Media Studies of the New School for Public Engagement in New York City. Twelve years later, I revisited it editing and showing it for a second screening on the occasion of the memorial for Ryan in the Orozco room of the New School in April 2014.

I have returned to the video while reading the article “Theorizing the Restlessness of Events” by Professor Robin Wagner-Pacifici, thinking about issues of temporality, event, perception, performance and meaning.

It strikes me now that the turn of the millennium, specifically post 9/11, brought us opportunities to reinvent ourselves in many ways, even if we weren’t looking for it. Perhaps because we weren’t. While the event of September 11, 2001 hit using different ways, all were unprepared. At first, we didn’t seem to know how to react to it and there was a sort of general paralysis embodied by mass speechlessness and communal silence. Then, there erupted many different waves of thoughts, a sort of push-pull vortex that engulfed us, ranging from overbearing demonstrations of patriotism to explicit anti-war movements and their aligned representations. I was one of the many at Union Square in the Fall 2001 experiencing and attempting to “capture” the responses of the many public demonstrations that followed that transformative event.

So, I grabbed my camera and set out to document whatever was happening. I intuitively felt the camera as part of my body, taking in whatever was there to be seen and heard, paying attention to the continuous flow of events while being a part of it and adjusting to it. Then I let it all settle.

The next Spring, I revisited that raw material and realized that much of what I had done had lot to do with the concepts and techniques I had studied: the ideas of the “Umwelt,” of “paying attention to the continuous,” of “going to an environment and scanning it.” Then I started to edit the footage, applying some other lines of thought to which I had been introduced, such as “organizing our ignorance,” contextualizing and identifying “reasoning patterns,” discovering “what don’t we know about what we know,” composing with ten signs, making video arguments and attempting to “achieve semiosis through conflict.”

And today, it strikes me that the waves of response to 9/11/2001 continue, as “the war on terrorism” continues, and I present my video response on 9/11, a most restless of restless events.

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Gisela Albuquerque Weise

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