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UA News
Museum offers art tribute

By Lisa Schumaier
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday September 11, 2002

Only one year has passed since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Time has settled some of the sentiment, but like the seemingly placid waters of an ocean after a storm, there still lies permanent devastation beneath.

Appropriately, the Arizona State Museum has us recall our immediate emotional response in the aftershock. In a commemorative exhibit, "Looking Back: Sept. 11 Across America," they ask us to recall our first statement while watching the second tower get hit, the primary friends or family members we waited through busy circuits to get a hold of, the people we directly looked to for answers. They ask us to remember our initial gasp for a reality we were used to breathing, but could no longer surface for air. In an acoustic compilation from over 500 hours of recording, we can hear a national response from very personal testimonies like our own.

However, this is not the first time we have been asked to be agents of history. Alan Lomax, formerly in charge of the Library of Congress Archive of American Folk Song, requested involvement from the American people on Dec. 8, 1941, to record reactions of shock and horror after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Once again, history is repeated and once again, we are called forth to testify on our own behalf.

Complete with a couch, chairs and a coffee table, the exhibit is set up like a living room, perhaps similar to your own. Students are able to step out of the hectic campus atmosphere and into another classroom where knowledge occurs from experience. Tucsonans can put aside the methodical life of the nine to five, and remember the day that they did not show up for work, but stayed at home in their own living rooms while internalizing the unspeakable. Part of a project originating from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, you are able to hear voices from all over America and relive the experiences that struck too close to home.

Accompanying the audio presentation is a variety of Plains and Western Apache beadwork. Adorning their art is an evocative and predominant symbol the American Flag. Lisa Falk, Director of Education at the Arizona State Museum, said that the Natives' fascination with the flag dates back to the 1890s. On the wall of the exhibit, it states that fascination with the flag was evident in the late 19th century. Perhaps because they saw it as a symbol of power, or their changing identity and new life. But, the symbol has especially been displayed in the past year.

"There has been a proliferation of the flag in basketry, jewelry, weavings, sculpture, and paintings," said Diane Dittemore ethnographic curator.

Falk reminds us that Native Americans and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are not as incongruous as we may assume, because they are the epitome of a culture besieged by instantaneous change.

"The Native Americans have obviously been assaulted by the United States before, and now the United States has been assaulted by others," Falk said. "An assault on one is an assault on all. Together, we are all Americans and we must learn to move forward."

Already advertised around parts of campus, students appear relieved about the exhibits mission. Katie MacKinnon, architecture sophomore, has been anxious about the string of events planned for the one-year anniversary.

"The exhibit sounds welcoming for everyone. I do not just want to see elaborate paintings where you have to search for an underlying abstract meaning," MacKinnon said. "Everyone should gain meaning and find the message because this was an event involved in every American's life story. Although it is art, the audience should be inclusive."

There will be an opening ceremony for the exhibit today at 12:45 p.m. on the front lawn. After the production that takes place on the UA Mall, President Likins will lead anyone who wishes to accompany him to the Arizona State Museum. Daniel Preston, Tohono O'odham, will conduct an American Indian blessing. Shortly thereafter, the Manuel Intertribal Dance Group will perform the Hoop, Eagle and Women's Fancy Shawl dances. Cecil Manuel will lead in the singing of flag and victory songs.

Following the ceremony, the museum invites visitors into the Native Goods Gallery, where the exhibit is displayed. Although the immediate reactions are already transcribed and preserved within a specific time, today's thoughts and feelings are still crucial to the perpetual healing process. The voices on the audio are echoes of our own, for they were not ground-breaking perspectives that made it on national talk shows. However, they revealed the impact of the attack in our every day lives. Providing a blank notebook in the exhibit, the museum allows visitors to journal or sketch any reflections they have had since the onslaught of events. A few chosen accounts will be posted online at the museum's Web site.


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