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Booklyn Artists' Alliance,  ...even the birds were on fire...
a exhibition of artworks by New York Artists Responding to 9/11 and its aftermath
curated and produced by the Booklyn Artists Alliance

Performer and Co-producers
Booklyn, AKA the Booklyn Artists Alliance, is a national artist run, non-profit organisation that publishes, distributes, and curates exhibitions of artists' books and related installation and performance art work.  www.booklyn.org,

For details regarding many of the artists and presses mentioned visit www.booklyn.org/Artists or www.booklyn.org /Organisations

For the "...even the birds..." performance in San Francisco,  visit: http://www.thelab.org/archive01/index.htm

For the "...even the birds..." performance in Los Angeles, visit: http://www.track16.com/t16nightsx.html

For Booklyn's Vegetable Mind performances, visit: http://www.umass.edu/plsoils/plsoil280/class_pictures.html
and: http://www.booklyn.org/Exhibhttp://www.track16.com/t16nightsx.htmlition/Vegetable.htm

For information about M. Weber visit: www.booklyn.org/Artists/Weber.htm

For more details visit on Revolocien Rekids: www.booklyn.org/Artists/Wilde.htm

Contact: Marshall Weber: booklyn1@yahoo.com,

"This piece is important because it takes what we artists have been saying in private and says it in public."   - Guillermo Gomez-Pena

"The audio, visual, olfactory and tactile elements of the exhibit and performance construct a powerful and visceral multi-sensory experience not soon forgotten."
  - Karen Elliot, Arts_Zine

Experiencing Empathy and Imagining Peace: Exhibit Themes and Goals

"Again and again history teaches us that the surviving witness of a violent catastrophic trauma has an ethical and existential crisis that either provides the opportunity for the witness to actively empathise with all those have who similarly suffered or provides the risk of being propelled into the endless cycle of silence and revenge.

Thus at any moment every one of us may come to a time and place where we must attempt to will ourselves into choosing creation and peace or destruction and war."
- From "Eleven" a book in the exhibit.

"The City, in a desperate and generous moment, had opened itself like a book, every surface was a legitimate blank page available for every citizen's testimony."
- Marshall Weber, curator 

" ...even the birds were on fire..."* goes beyond the fatalities and physical damage of the bombing to evoke the spectres and passions of militarism, racism and xenophobia raised by those incursions on the territories and psyches of both the United States of America and Afghanistan. The exhibit evokes contrapuntal voices and hopes to catalyse dialog about issues of war and peace, race and religion by providing the audience  with a complex aesthetic experience in a profoundly respectful environment.

* The title is borrowed from an observation that a kindergarten age child made while observing the burning World Trade Center during their school's evacuation.

 

Exhibit Description

 " ...even the birds were on fire..." is an exhibition spiralling around a huge collage scroll (titled The Scroll), four artists books available for reading in a small comfortable lounge area, photographic installations of the  ubiquitous missing posters related to the books, a five channel audio installation, a memorial altar, and  dramatic detritus from the "even the birds were on fire" performance tour. The exhibit is a physical evocation of the emotional atmosphere of the September 11th bombing of the World Trade Center and its aftermath. It is a montage of personal observations and expressions of witnesses from New York City and beyond.

The exhibit focuses on the incredible tidal wave of texts and images that washed over the city in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. In the brief period between the attacks and the US invasion of Afghanistan and its accompanying display of American flags, the city's commercial character, it's advertising and its official signage was all literally obscured by missing posters, poetry, and urban folk art memorials. It was as if the public dialog needed poetry to attempt to comprehend the incomprehensible.

A historical moment had opened in the city's consciousness and the city became an immense page upon which intense grief and searching inquiry was written.  The Scroll is a 45 feet long and 8 feet high multi-media collage composed of texts, images and other ephemera collected from the people and the streets of New York during the hours, and subsequently days and weeks, immediately following the 11th of September. It contrasts newspaper articles with elementary school letters, personal correspondence and the ubiquitous 'missing' posters found on New York City streets.

The exhibit is accompanied by a five channel audio installation of location sound from September 11th and texts by poets and political commentators including Amiri Baraka, Noam Chomsky and members of  RAWA (Revolutionary Association of Afghani Women) produced by MT Karthik and Christopher Wilde at Revolocien Rekids. The sounds of planes, helicopters and military jets circle the exhibition space  relentlessly creating an atmosphere of anxiety reminiscent of 9/11.

Visitors to the installation are invited to leave memorial objects or write their commentaries about 9/11, the ongoing war, and the exhibition itself onto a paper wall installed near The Scroll. These offerings will be  incorporated into the scroll and the performance.

 

The Performance

The performance itself consists of six scenes where Weber enacts intimate ritual actions that parallel emotional and physical states of the trauma. The Scroll is the anchoring visual element that frames the performance. The performance ends with Weber burning all the hair off his body in an ancient mourning ritual found throughout many human cultures. After the performance, Weber will host an open dialogue with  the audience and gather commentary to be incorporated into the next exhibit and performance.

 

The Books

1. "Eleven", a photo essay of the visual and text environment of New York City in the days and weeks after 9/11. Accompanied by a CD with recited poems and texts by New York poets and writers. A Booklyn publication with Ellis Avery, MT Karthik, Jane LeCroy, Peter Spagnuolo, Marshall Weber, and  Christopher Wilde.

2. "...even the birds were on fire..."  For the victims of violence." a book of poetry fragments with a minute to minute timeline of the 9/11 events published and edited by Sara Parkel of Filter Press. With writing by Shane Beversdorf, Amy Ferrara, Sara Parkel, Esther Smith, Peter Spagnuolo, and Marshall Weber.  Produced in an edition of 150.

3. "12/11", a photo essay of the visual environment of New York City in the aftermath of 9/11 with a focus on the various means of display of the American flag. By Marshall Weber and Mark Wagner. Published by Booklyn

4. "America What Are You?", an immense journal of reportage by MT Karthik that documents and schematically analyses media coverage of 9/11 and its aftermath, including various pro-peace demonstrations and international reactions to the event.

 

Tour History

 " ...even the birds were on fire..." has been performed on November 13th, 2001 at The LAB in San Francisco's historic Mission District, on December 4th, 2001 atTrack 16 Gallery in Los Angeles_ Bergamot Station and on February 21st, 2002 at the Hokin Center of Columbia College in Chicago, Illinois.

 

Commentary on previous  " ...even the birds were on fire..." exhibitions:

 "Thank you--you made it easier to remember again. And it was powerful visually." 
Judith Hoffberg, Editor, Umbrella Magazine

 "Your piece showed the paucity of the symbols of both camps (and) the need for personalized responses  rather than manufactured ones."
Cassie Riger, Artist

 "We are very proud to have had both you (Karthik) and Marshall perform here last night." Laurie Steelink, Curator/producer of "even the birds were on fire" for Track 16 Gallery

 "It was as if you were a carrier pigeon, with a message strapped to your leg arriving finally after weeks of light having left NYC."
Mia Lor Houlberg, Artist

 "I was constantly unnerved by the possibility that you would hurt yourself and it would be a consequence of an act done for us and therefore in our name. I suppose I was alarmist--you're no Buddhist priest in Vietnam, but these are equally strange times...and so I felt that emotion nonetheless. I was relieved when the performance ended and you were intact and I was also grateful that you had the courage to dismantle the symbols of this national mood of hysteria. More people should care unto tears."
Steve Seid, Director, Pacific Film Archives

 "Such work as yours shows why art is the best expression to come from such devastation. Thanks you so  much."
Courtney Berne

 "My daughter was in New York and near to the disaster. Thank you for helping us understand how being there must have felt. Now we can talk about this."
Anonymous

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