1972 World Trade Center
2001 Tower of Lights
reenactment and its [un]limits
On 17 February 2000 Brian Carroll posed the following question to Steve Lauf here at Design-l:
I wonder what the limits of reenactment are...
where does reenactionary architecture begin and end?
On 18 February 2000 Steve Lauf posted the following reply:
It seems logical that no reenactment occurs without an enactment occurring first...
reenactment's most inescapable limit is that it can never be as original as that which it reenacts.
I remember feeling thankful to Brian for having raised such a succinct question, because it provided the opportunity for me to verbalize what I believe to be an axiomatic aspect of reenactment.
This exchange came to mind when I viewed the "virtual re-creation [via laser light] of the [WTC] towers" as proposed by NY architects Gustavo Bonevardi and John Bennett--here reenactment seems to better describe what the proposal would actually be doing if it was indeed acted upon. This proposal also demonstrates the range of reenactment in that it (the range) comprises multiple degrees of separation from that which is reenacted, with the 'virtual re-creation' here being much removed from the original.
After thinking this through, I then realized that last week's hoax image of the tourist standing atop the World Trade Center just before the plane struck the Tower was also a reenactment, and perhaps even the closest reenactment of the very beginning of the horrible events September 11. Recall how Gregory Wharton very quickly pointed out all the degrees of separation that distanced the reenacting image from the 'original', while John Young pointed out all the degrees of the reenacting image that set it close to the 'original'. That this image received national attention perhaps offers a prime example of just how much a reenactment can be real precisely when everyone knows the reenactment really isn't real.
Strange how reenactments can be both real and unreal at the same time.