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Exhibition: ‘Memory Remains: 9/11 Artifacts at Hangar 17 by Francesc Torres’ at the Imperial War Museum, London

Exhibition dates: 26th August 2011 – 26th February 2012

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Many thankx to the Imperial War Museum, London for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Francesc Torres
Steel beams taken from ground zero for storage at John F. Kennedy International Airport’s Hangar 17
2009
© Francesc Torres

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Francesc Torres
Twisted steel beams from ground zero dominate the space in JFK International Airport’s Hangar 17, where 9/11 artifacts were housed for study and safekeeping
2009
© Francesc Torres

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Francesc Torres
View through a portion of the broadcast antenna that fell from the top of the north tower. A number of fragments of the 360-foot antenna were kept at Hangar 17
2009
© Francesc Torres

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Francesc Torres
The collapse of the twin towers created a series of iconic objects, transformed by force and fire from their daily uses into artifacts that tell a story. At Hangar 17, tented enclosures were built for artifacts of various kinds that, in the view of curators and conservators, needed the added protection of humidity control and stillness. Perhaps the most dramatic example of this transformation could be found inside the vehicle tent, where trucks and cars, normally left outside in all conditions, were given shelter
2009
© Francesc Torres

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Francesc Torres
Because the Last Column had inscriptions and attachments on all sides, it was raised onto a specially constructed steel cradle at Hangar 17 so conservators had enough clearance to work. A mirror provides a glimpse of tributes on the underside of the column. Visible on the facing side are the taped-on memorials for Firefighter Christian Regenhard, 28, and Deputy Battalion Chief Dennis Cross, 60
2009
© Francesc Torres

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“The empty shell of Hangar 17 at JFK Airport became a storehouse of memories when it was filled with the material cleared from the World Trade Center site following the September 11 attacks on New York City.

Marking the tenth anniversary of 9/11, Francesc Torres’s work features over 150 projected images which explore inside the hangar and reflect on the emotional power of what remained, from personal belongings to steel girders distorted by the force of the attacks. Alongside the photographs is a section of raw rusted steel over two metres in length from the ruins of the World Trade Center. As well as larger piece (over 1 tonne) that is due to go on display at IWM North in October, these objects are the first pieces of steel from Ground Zero to go on display in the UK. The exhibition will also be on display at the International Centre for Photography in New York and at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona.

Throughout his career, Spanish-American artist Francesc Torres has reflected on the diverse manifestations of culture, politics, memory and power. His latest exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, Memory Remains, is a bold and haunting amalgam of all four.

In 2009, Torres was granted rare access to Hangar 17 at John F Kennedy International Airport, a gaping space of over 80,000-square-feet. Within the hangar lie the remnants deemed worth preserving from the September 11 attacks, taken from the 1.8 million tonnes of debris from Ground Zero. For five weeks Torres daily confronted the legacy of terror and the ghosts of that fateful late-summer day, capturing images of objects that stand as symbolic substitutes to the victims.

“Look at it this way”, says Torres, relaying his experience, “it’s a hanger constructed to house a plane, which was transformed into a weapon used for the attack on the towers and now the sediment of that attack is here. With the sound of planes constantly flying overhead it was absolutely surreal.”

According to the photographer, the experience of walking around the hanger after the first day was so emotionally draining that he slept from four o’clock in the afternoon through to ten o’clock the next morning.

“I was absolutely exhausted; physically and emotionally… every single iota of energy I had was gone.”

His efforts have produced some exceptional results, however, displayed on a rolling slideshow in a small room near the entrance of the museum. Among the objects photographed are large shards of rusted, burnt steel, crumpled filing cabinets and a plethora of flattened Port Authority vehicles. Some unexpected pieces of detritus were also found, including a nine-foot, three-dimensional Bugs Bunny, made completely bizarre when juxtaposed by a sign whose letters read chillingly: “That’s All Folks!”

Prior to the Hangar 17 project, Torres documented the excavation of a mass Spanish Civil War grave that he said drew certain comparisons with the material at JFK.

“The clothing is something that just grabs you,” he says, “it’s very uncanny that nothing changes with the victims as historical subjects. The clothing [in Hangar 17] was exactly the same as the clothing I’ve seen in Spain or in the former Yugoslavia; it all has the same patina. The victim becomes universal… the remains have that quality.”

Along with the photographs, the museum has also acquired a section of steel from the structure of the World Trade Center, displayed outside the projection room. It is the first section of raw rusted steel from the ruins at Ground Zero – thought to be the box section from one of windows – to be displayed in the UK.

For the past year, pieces from the hangar have made their way to be placed in memorials in each of the 50 American states, as well as seven other countries across the globe. Some, but not all, of the remaining pieces will be housed in the 9/11 Memorial Museum near the site of the attack, which is something that concerns Torres.

“We have to preserve the hanger as a container. It’s an unbelievable narrative apparatus that had been created almost on the run,” he says.

With a lifelong interest in questions of human memory and meaning, Torres’ work is based on the concept that it is through the remains of history that memory remains. His latest show is an unforgettable testament to those horrendous attacks that capped the 20th century almost a decade ago.”

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Francesc Torres
These three panels, offering a view of the Statue of Liberty from 1977, were salvaged from the Cortlandt Street subway station under the World Trade Center. The spray-painted markings indicate that the area nearby had been searched by rescue workers for survivors or victims
2009
© Francesc Torres

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Francesc Torres
9/11, as seen live on television in Barcelona, Spain. Photographed at roughly 3 p.m. local time by Maria Iturrioz de Torres, Francesc Torres’ mother, while they spoke by phone
2009
© Francesc Torres

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Francesc Torres
Though most of the vehicles at Hangar 17 came from first responders, this taxi, an emblem of daily life in New York, was also preserved. At right, the tags hanging from the frame indicate its Port Authority inventory number (white) and mark its selection for inclusion in the permanent collection of the Memorial Museum (yellow)
2009
© Francesc Torres

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Francesc Torres
During the recovery at the site, some ironworkers would cut religious or other symbols out of pieces of steel from the World Trade Center and give them as keepsakes to family members or other visitors
2009
© Francesc Torres

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Imperial War Museum, London
Lambeth Road
London SE1 6HZ
United Kingdom
T: 020 7416 5000

Opening hours:
Daily from 10am – 6pm

Imperial War Museum, London website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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