The white glove hovered momentarily over the ‘buy now’ button. One click away from souveniring a memento that might help it all click into place. The item in question: a pre-2001 Twin Tower snow dome, complete with an inauthentic looking Certificate of Authenticity. Once purchased it would make its way to my cache of accumulated artefacts referencing Nine Eleven – a curious way of getting in touch with an itch that can’t be scratched. A few items from the growing cluster: a New York landmark ashtray with a foreboding plane lurking in the edge detail, two vintage Barbie doll television sets broadcasting the Twin Towers (one with a partly destroyed tower), two pennies with the World Trade Center scene pressed into them – one landscape, one portrait and one with a spot of corrosion where the blast exited. Also, two plastic Twin Tower trophies found in a Times Square gift shop and a nightlight with the same image of the towers – 220 stories awaiting 220 volts of illumination. I had missed out on bidding for a 3D puzzle of the World Trade Center some years earlier but in retrospect I am happy to have missed out. The fun of getting lost in a metaphorical blizzard of the snow-dome-like micro narratives that swirl around the absent towers is far more compelling than questing for a singular solution to the Nine Eleven puzzle. Gathering these curiosities has been an attempt to underpin a crumbling worldview; material artefacts that signal the uncertainty of a world with psychotic symptoms. For more than a decade I was hooked on the gateway drug of deep suspicion. I thought it might break me from normative thinking and fix me in a generative state of suspended disbelief. It did that and more. My fascination was indexed and enabled by the proliferation of technologies available with which to watch the high rotation of available Nine Eleven footages from multiple vantage points. Repetitive exposure had me mesmerised. Random searching, type one error in after another and the false positives begin to have quite a negative effect, the counterfactual information reaching a point when I found the boundary conditions of my reality neatly rounded up by short cuts and cornered by the image of a prosthetic imagination. Turning from the cognitive dissonance of unknown unknowns lead me irreversibly closer to the event horizon of a psycho-dynamic inkblot, the dreaded net-based tar pit of stultifying interconnected conspiracy tropes in which meaning is fixed by a prerequisite breakdown of reason. Each and every factoid clumps to become part of a vast assembly of information all relatable through a paranoiac logic, a vacuum that draws all over our psychological tendency to form patterns out of chaos. Attaining critical distance from this confabulation is not unlike outrunning the pyroclastic cloud into which the buildings disappeared. Finding tenuous connections when lost in the haze of this fiction becomes the game. The wing ding thing, folding a US$10 to make out the fate of integrated world capital, sliding the mouse cursor into the pause button over and over. Is flying at over 500 mph at ground level even possible? Demon face in the explosion or just run of the mill pareidolia? How can a building collapse at nearly free fall speed without explosive implications be explained? Do the laws of physics apply when constructing narratives for mass manipulation? In New York early last century Nikola Tesla, inventor of the AC power system, almost destroys the building from his laboratory when experimenting with a resonance generator but instead ends up designing a death ray that draws energy from the ionosphere. Possible link to the 1908 Tunguska blast in Siberia? 2000 times bigger than Hiroshima but no crater, just tiny iron spheres in the soil curiously similar to the soil beneath crop circles and the dust produced from Nine Eleven. The government impounded the designs for the mythical death ray and Reagan pours billions into the Star Wars program for the development of directed energy weapons to be based in Earth’s orbit. Is this the ‘revelation of the method’? A select number of initiated adepts colluding to bring about the Twin Towers collapse to serve as a mega ritual in order to bring the rest of us into a perfected condition of cosmic alignment? The Twin Towers struck as a giant resonant tunning fork sacrificed on the chessboard of Manhattan to make way for the dawning of a new millennia where the material world would come to life through the internet of things in the wake of humanistic demise. Having a professional interest in art and architecture lead me to Rem Koolhaas’ Delirious New York (1978), a retrospective manifesto for Manhattan written by appropriating the ‘paranoid critical method’ developed by Salvador Dalí. Delirious New York’s central argument and mode of interpretation is that diverse architectural outcomes are second to and guided by an invisible force. Carl Jung’s theory of synchronicity opened up a portal through which this a-causal connecting principle or theory of meaningful coincidence enabled correlation to rebel without a cause to make sense of almost everything. I soon found myself drifting into the landscape of synchro-mysticism, the fusion of synchronicity and mysticism concocted by a growing online community with similar proclivities in joining too many dots. This community is anchored and built by the countless hours of news and entertainment footage hosted online that has been retrospectively edited to foreground the signs indicating ‘advanced knowledge’ of the Twin Towers event. Even more bizarre are the tenuous yet compelling connections around the choice of actors and the archetypes they play from one movie to the next. Kurt Russell gliding into to touch down on the towers in Escape from New York (1981) conflated with the actions of his character in Stargate (1994) supposedly spells out meta-magical significance. The mythology of oral traditions as we understand it were thought to be shared and mapped out via the backdrop of the night sky – the program, however, of a technological society directs us through the influence of stars on the screen. One of the more entertaining coincidences emerging from this approach to interpretation is the so-called resonance between Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968( and the events of Nine Eleven. The monolith is the same ratio as a cinema screen but on its side is said to mark the true occult beginning of the millennium. Arthur C. Clarke’s alleged connections to the dark forces that guide our fate is speculative, and other than IBM’s deep blue and my VHS copy of Videodrome (1983) being of a similar shape, the Millennium Hilton modelled on the monolith made a gala appearance from behind the curtain of dust after the Twin Towers imploded. Welcome to the new world order, Dave. A commonly shared theme is that of retro causality, where significant future events are thought to create ripples backward through time. Retro causality manifests signs that point forward to the impending disaster. An alternative way of viewing this is as a cryptic form of predictive programming, subtle suggestions sequestered by those mysterious manipulators of malevolence into the media feed of those they are about to efface, so as to fulfil a karmic requirement to have disclosed their intentions. No response infers tacit agreement – standard occult ritual psychodrama. If a grimoire is a book of spells then grammar must be how to spell things out. Examples of lesser magic, or perhaps the alphabet soup repeating, as a broad-spectrum placebo it is a bit hard to swallow. As a side note, the video of school kids spelling out ‘kite-hit-steel-plane-must’ moments before George W. Bush reads them a book about a pet goat while the first tower is hit takes ‘coincidences’ to a new level. It has been suggested by government advisers that hiring trolls to dismantle the hazardous tangle of conspiracy theorists by burning news group threads with meaningless digressions and extraneous messages driving wedges between already splintered communities and setting them against each other is an efficient mode of societal control. But, somewhere between clutching at a straw man and arguing the toss of this word salad, the hyper-object of MKUltra-style butterfly effects continue the cognitive infiltration of crippled epistemologically cascaded conspiracy theorists while nurturing the required opposition to ensure that counter intelligence programs are a sustainable growth industry. We are now under a new rule of thumb, the likes of which trap us in personalised filter bubbles, psychosocial waste compactors of cybernetic heuristics, a repressive de-sublimation prefiguring expectation with the positive feedback of dynamic simulation. Conspiracy theories are the cheap compression algorithms that make simple daily complexity and cut corners to help you walk in circles before you do your block. Whatever the case, the practice of bringing these images and ideas together exemplify a short-circuiting of our technologically distributed memories inscribed into us by the collective hypnotism of mass media but reclaimed by applying this synchro-mystical super-surreal digital cut up method. It could be the bizarreness effect at work, but I consider this type of practice as a critical form of contemporary art. Somewhere in my frenetic information bricolage I began noting the many crossover points between fine art and the Twin Towers event. For me, Karlheinz Stockhausen’s offhand statement that it was it was ‘the greatest work of art possible in the whole cosmos’ raises the question of orchestration. How many artists would need to know that they are part of producing a gesamtkunstwerk, a total work of art? Historically, artists have been instrumental in the machinations of war, but is the institutional camouflage now pervasive enough to enable simultaneous obfuscation of each other’s involvement? Joseph Beuys visited New York in 1974, a time when the oil crisis had slowed the United States economy to a near stand still. He made a curious connection between the then-recently completed Twin Towers and the twin Arab saints Cosmos and Damian. These twins performed medical procedures without payment and famously transplanted a Muslim leg onto a Christian body. Interesting to note is that the public sculpture between the Twin Towers, The Sphere (1971) by German artist Fritz Koenig, was intended to symbolise world peace through world trade and took inspiration from the Kaaba in Mecca. Beuys made multiple postcard prints showing the Twin Towers tinged in yellow and signed in red, symbolically turning them into sticks of butter to transform the flow of global capital, the colour also an alchemical reference to sulphur. The theory that directed energy weapons caused the collapse of the Twin Towers highlights the sulphuration of steel. Moving forward twenty-seven years, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council had, in the lead up to the Twin Towers’ collapse, supported a number of artist collectives in the production of works in the towers. One of these was the E-TEAM spelling their name on the buildings face by switching on lights in 127 windows. These windows matched with the strike zone, where witnesses described the plane entering the structure like a knife into butter, a mark of Beuys-sian successors. Another strangely anticipatory work called The B-thing (2000) by the group Gelatin, was the removal of a window, creating a temporary balcony that was to be filmed from a helicopter. This fuelled speculation that the artists were test dummies for the upcoming ‘media event’ which was planned to be the opening for their exhibition on the eleventh of September. Lewis Mumford’s book Pentagon of Power (1974) has an early image of the Twin Towers placed beside Jean Tinguely’s ‘Homage to New York’ (1960), his first large self-destroying sculpture as the cover. Perhaps the great work of art is the governance of humanity and any action required to streamline this end is justifiable. At one point I bought a copy of the official Nine Eleven commission report and while holding it I realised that when keeping the ‘c’ under my thumb it would be read as an omission report. The variations and refutations of this account will no doubt continue to proliferate, and the speculative reverberations have had very real effects in the exacerbation of online disagreements, and without being self-conscious of it also proliferating, virtual disinformation may be the actual task of art in the service of a militarised world. In the last two lines of Jean Baudrillard’s essay The Spirit of Terrorism he wrote:
Their end in material space has borne them off into a definitive imaginary space. By the grace of terrorism, the World Trade Center has become the world’s most beautiful building – the eighth wonder of the world!1
And I wonder if the immaterial condition has not been used to great effect as virtual flippers in a perpetual disinformation pin ball machine that continues to play us all, to what end I do not know but will say: be warned, speculation can be addictive.
Ceri Hann is a multidisciplinary arts practitioner who develops participatory art forms intended to enhance the conditions for collective idea generation. Ceri has been a tutor and guest lecturer in the School of Art and School of Architecture and Design at RMIT and has an ongoing engagement within the Art in Public Space and MFA post-graduate programs. Ceri has presented work with Melbourne Comedy Festival, Liquid Architecture, RMIT Project Space. He is also part of the socially engaged studio working at the intersection between art and design, Public Assembly with Lynda Roberts.
Jean Baudrillard, The Spirit of Terrorism (Radical Thinkers), Verso, 2013. ↩