An Anti-Memorial to 9/11 on the 20th anniversary of 9/11
Updated: Feb 17
Ungrievable Lives: The Ghosts of 9/11
"What makes for a grievable life? Who counts as human? Whose lives count as lives?" - Judith Butler, “Precarious Life,” 2004.
See more about this art project at https://www.countermemoryproject.org/ungrievable-lives.
This anti-memorial seeks to examine the differential values placed on human life as it emerged in the post-9/11 political discourse. The victims of 9/11 no doubt suffered a horrible death, and the national and international mourning that followed in the wake of 9/11 was understandable.
Now after the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we have re-performed our acts of mourning and remembrance. This time in the dark shadow of America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. In my mind, as I relive the terrible specter of airplanes flying into the World Trade towers, I also see flashes of Afghani men, women, and children running after and desperately clinging to US airplanes on the Hamid Karzai airport.
Number of civilian casualties
We lost 2,983* American lives on 9/11/2001.
In the first decade after 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had claimed 911,931** Iraqi and Afghani lives.
In 2021, the number of Iraqi and Afghani casualties is in the millions.***
This is the counter-memory of 9/11 that is no longer remembered. And these are the ghosts of 9/11 that still haunt it.
Judith Butler calls these as “ungrievable” lives, for to grieve them is to declare oneself unpatriotic to the US nation, and sympathetic to the “enemy.”
It seems to me that the 9/11 victims are the gold standard of a grievable life. This work seeks to apprehend the value of one American life in terms of non-American lives. How does the scale tilt in terms of grievable and ungrievable lives?
With this anti-memorial, I seek to perform the unpatriotic act of mourning and remembering the humanity of the ungrievable Iraqi and Afghani civilians and troops that lost their lives in the decade after 9/11.
* Figures from 911memorial.org/
** Figures from unknownnews.org/casualties.html
*** Figures from theintercept.com/2018/11/19/civilian-casualties-us-war-on-terror/