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Revisiting September 11

The exhibition depicts the events and the aftermath of September 11 (swissinfo/SRI) Mark Ledsom

One year on from the September 11 attacks in New York, a timely photographic exhibition has opened in Zurich.

This content was published on September 10, 2002 - 19:00

Around 500 photographs depicting the terrorist strikes and their aftermath have been put on display at the city's Kunsthaus museum.

The exhibition is part of the "Here is New York" collection which comprises around 5,000 images taken by both professional and amateur photographers.

The collection was originally conceived as a community project whereby the people of New York could share their various September 11 experiences, and the photographs on show are correspondingly diverse.

Harrowing images

Harrowing images of falling bodies and ruptured limbs are hung alongside declarations of hope and defiance.

"We are not afraid," insists one photographed placard while nearby a message has been fingered in dust, urging the US government to "Nuke them all".

"We only realised when we were hanging the pictures, just how very strong the images are," Kunsthaus Zurich curator Bice Curiger told swissinfo.

"I don't think the impact has lessened much over the past 12 months and seeing all the photographs together, all cropped to the same size, really gives you that sense of community."

But how much of that original community spirit is lost when the photographs are taken out of their original Soho setting and presented to a European public whose average involvement with September 11 came via the television set?

Voyeuristic?

Curiger concedes that the exhibition in Zurich can never come close to matching the sensations of the original, but she disagrees with those who consider the display to be voyeuristic.

"Of course it's different for the people who first went to the little shop where the photos were originally hung, especially if they lost friends or relatives in the attacks," says Curiger.

"But I still think people here feel a genuine need to look at these photographs that has nothing to do with voyeurism."

"I think we have to keep looking at these images again and again, in the same way the people in New York kept on taking their photographs - as an attempt to take it all in, to try to grasp the fact that this actually happened and to somehow struggle to understand it all."

Alternative viewpoints

The exhibition does not shy away from alternative viewpoints, though. One photograph simply shows a hand-written notice deploring the use of cameras around the "Ground Zero" site.

"All of you taking photos," the notice begins, "I wonder if you really see what's here or if you're so concerned with getting that perfect shot that you've forgotten this is a tragedy site, not a tourist attraction."

Voyeuristic or not, the exhibition as a whole has so far proven highly popular.

No less than ten US cities are currently displaying parts of the collection, while Zurich is one of nine international cities which will be presenting the photographs on and around the anniversary of the attacks.

The mass interest in the exhibition has also generated hundreds of thousands of dollars for charities related to September 11, with copies of the photos and the accompanying book being offered for sale at the various sites.

The "Here is New York" exhibition is being held in the foyer of the Kunsthaus Zurich's auditorium until October 6.

swissinfo, Mark Ledsom

September 11 exhibition

The "Here is New York" exhibition in Zurich is one of 19 currently being held around the world.

Combining the work of professionals and amateurs, the photographs are all cropped to the same size and hung anonymously at the various exhibition sites.

Visitors can buy copies of the photos, with all net proceeds going to charities linked to the September 11 attacks.

The Zurich exhibition runs at the city's Kunsthaus museum until October 6.

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