Has there been a great 9-11 work of art?

That’s a question from Zoe Pollock, who links to lots of discussion.  My nomination is John Adams’s On the Transmigration of Souls.  Here is one YouTube performance, here is another, though admittedly it sounds more impressive on a good stereo or better yet live.


If you broaden it to include "consequences of 9/11," I'd nominate Botero's paintings of Abu Ghraib.

Not sure rock can ever qualify as "great art," but Sleater-Kinney's "Far Away" is a great song from quite possibly their best album (One Beat).

william basinski's "disintegration loops" - being performed live at the metropolitan museum of art in NYC on sunday

There's "Netherland" of course -- but what about Laurie Anderson's "O Superman"? Is it disqualified by having been produced _before_ the event? Why should it be since art lives in interpretation too? And Sonny Rollins' 9/11 concert deserves a mention though it is not his best outing.

For those who can read German, the entries for 9-11 and the following days in Max Goldt's sort-of-diary Wenn man einen weißen Anzug anhat are quite excellent.

The Rising - Bruce Springsteen

There's no arguing tastes, really, but "Transmigration" really isn't to mine--and I'm speaking as a real fan of Adams (Nixon in China, Doctor Atomic, Grand Pianola Music, The Wound Dresser, Harmonielehre). So maybe it's just me.

Most of the art inspired by the September 11 attacks has been the worst kind of garbage, of course, but most of every kind of art is garbage, right? We have Darryl Worley's "Have You Forgotten:" revolting, tendentious, and probably stealing the palm from "Little Boxes" as "the most sanctimonious song ever written." And we have the immortal lines of Amiri Baraka, the then-poet laureate of New Jersey:

Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed
Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers
To stay home that day
Why did Sharon stay away?
Who know why Five Israelis was filming the explosion
And cracking they sides at the notion

And all of this pales next to that intolerably earnest episode of "The West Wing," doesn't it? So I don't know--maybe I ought to take it easy on John Adams.

On a positive note, I don't think that Greengrass film, "United 93," gets the respect it deserves as a serious look at ordinary people caught up in a cataclysm. There is also Spiegelman's "In the Shadow of No Towers," which has a raw power that, maybe, beats anything ten years of reflection have produced. And I don't know if it counts for your purposes, but the Richard Drew photograph that has come to be known as "The Falling Man" is still so big and horrible that it is difficult to look at--and it is probably important for us to do so.

United 93 is an incredible film.

+1 re: In the Shadow of No Towers

War of the worlds by Steven spielberg

Tom "tax cuts are the most important thing in time of war" Delay's mug shot?

It is much easier to come up with art that addresses the consequences of 9-11. My picks of pop art are "The Hurt Locker" and PJ Harvey's "Let England Shake"... but they are both much more about the War on Terror period.

What are the great rapid catastrophic event works of art?

"Netherland" by Joseph O'Neill . The best I've read.

"It’s impossible, though, to stop scanning the horizon for something else — the bracing, wide-screen, many-angled novel that will leave a larger, more definitive intellectual and moral footprint on the new age of terror.

Joseph O’Neill’s “Netherland” is not that novel. It’s too urbane, too small-boned, too savvy to carry much Dreiserian sweep and swagger. But here’s what “Netherland” surely is: the wittiest, angriest, most exacting and most desolate work of fiction we’ve yet had about life in New York and London after the World Trade Center fell."


My pick would be Don DeLillo's 2007 novel, Falling Man.

My nomination for the worst song inspired by 9/11: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruNrdmjcNTc

"Jesse" by Scott Walker, from his album The Drift (2006).


I am honestly unable to come to any conclusion about how I feel about it personally, but Graydon Parrish's large realist allegorical painting "The Cycle of Terror and Tragedy" (in the collection of the New Britain Museum of Art) is definitely the most technically accomplished work of visual art commemorating 9/11 yet one whose content —its imagery and allegory — most unsettles.

The re-imagined Battlestar Galatica.

For films, I would nominate "25th Hour." It's not a perfect movie by any means, but it captures the mix of anxiety and patriotism that followed in a way that's interesting.

I second United 93... its very sad that more people haven't seen such an excellent movie.

United 93 is an excellent film; everyone should see it. I also really liked Chris Morris's film Four Lions, which really shows up the bone-headed idiocy of both the jihadists and the authorities, whose responses are simultaneously ineffective and excessive.

Is there any doubt that Dennis Madalone's music video "America We Stand as One" is worthy of consideration?

Craig Wright's "Recent Tragic Events," a play that premiered at Woolly Mammoth in DC in 2002, was both a less literal version (Joyce Carol Oates played by a sock puppet) and surprisingly effecting. Instead of telling the story of people in NYC or DC, the characters are in Minneapolis. A man arrives at a woman's apartment for a blind date on 9/12/01, unsure if the date is still on but unable to contact the woman to check. She hasn't heard from her sister who lives in NYC, so they end up in the apartment. The fact that it was a good production with a great DC cast really helped, but Wright used the distance to grapple with 9/11 as a national event while still connecting to a room full of people who spent that day in DC.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

Also, The Brooklyn Follies is my favorite Paul Auster book, though 9/11 only comes in at the very end.

Let the Great World Spin

I think it's close enough...

Comments for this post are closed