2002 | MOVING PERIMETER: A WREATH FOR GROUND ZERO

New York, New York

Having lived and worked in downtown Manhattan for the past thirty years the events of September 11 became an intimate part of my life.  Walking into the area, passing through the checkpoints of a war zone it was impossible not to see the new realities of the city, the large inaccessible areas, the shifting borders around the areas impacted by the attack.  As more of the city gradually became accessible, thousands of people came to trace the perimeter of Ground Zero, turning it into a moving pilgrimage.  Working from these observations and with a desire to contribute in some tangible way, I started to consider this edge as a site in a collaborative project with Victoria Marshall and Elliott Maltby.

A number of interventions were to be implemented immediately: figure eights painted on the paving at key intersections to visually tie one piece of the city to the next, all existing barriers and fences painted blue.  New fragments of fencing, seating, planting, and blue lights were proposed to form a movable perimeter that would become increasingly dense and noticeable as the zone of exclusion became smaller: a coalescing of separate parts.  These elements would replace the disparate fences and barricades that originally defined the edge – wood, concrete, chain link and pipe – and form a boundary wreath for the construction site.  Rather than encountering a crime scene with barriers that hide the site from view, this proposal would allow for visual access during the years of recovery and reconstruction.  This permeable edge would provide space for the tangible objects of our memories, the flowers and the notes which enable people to continue to look and remember.  By allowing visitors to participate in defining Ground Zero, Moving Perimeter would have made it possible for visitors to come as mourners rather than just as voyeurs.  The shrines of flowers and candles that appeared throughout the city at various sites were such a powerful presence; would it be possible to set up a situation that recognizes their effect and encourages the continuation of this practice?  Instead of seeing this act of remembrance disappear over time this transitional project provided a structure to ensure its continuation.  As it became known that everyone who visited Ground Zero should bring flowers to place along the perimeter, a permanent presence of color and life would be created.  The importance of ritual that emerged throughout the city is acknowledged, as a place is created for people to come to terms with their experience and sense of loss.

At the completion of reconstruction the various elements were to be temporarily reconfigured into a large scale three-dimensional figure eight.  As visitors once again came to the center of Ground Zero they would find this pattern marked by bands of flowers by day or see it as a figure outlined by the fire of candles at night.  Moving through the multiple paths created by the arrangement of elements, tracing this infinite line, the visitors become the form themselves, activating the symbol of the endless knot by their movement.

-Collaboration with Elliott Maltby and Victoria Marshall.