Viktor Witkowski, The Twins (Rise & Fall), 2019
In 1976, Western Electric -the primary supplier of AT&T from 1881 to 1996- produced a commercial, detailing its work during the construction of the Twin Towers in Lower Manhattan.
The 4-minutes commercial, simply titled “The Twins”, covers the entire construction phase of the World Trade Center with a focus on the installation of its elaborate phone system. According to the narrator of the original commercial, the main goal was to connect the approximately 400 companies housed in the World Trade Center with the world of commerce via telecommunication.
Toward the end of the clip, the narrator expresses hope that the World Trade Center might promote “better understanding among people.”
For this experimental video, I contrast the original commercial with rare footage of the clean-up efforts at Ground Zero from September 2001 to May 2002. The split screen throughout the video tells a story of the various kinds of labor that surround the rise and fall of the Twin Towers : first the construction of the towers and then the clean-up following the terror attacks.
Even though the attack on the towers was one of the most widely covered events in televised history, the removal of 1.8 million tons of debris with the help of first responders, specialists and volunteers received much less attention.
Footage of the clean-up at Ground Zero shows how much of the work in the first few months consisted of hundreds of volunteers equipped with buckets and often sifting through debris by hand.
Nearly two decades after the terror attacks, about 10,000 rescue/recovery workers have been diagnosed with cancer while “more than 43,000 people have been certified with a 9/11 related health condition” (THE GUARDIAN, September 2018). Even though the terror attacks of 9/11 are long behind us, they continue to claim lives with many of those affected struggling to pay their medical bills.
This video is dedicated to Luis Alvarez
is a painter and filmmaker. He was born in Poland and grew up in Germany where he graduated from the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Braunschweig (HBK Braunschweig, Germany) with a combined master’s degree in Studio Art, Art History and Art Education in 2006. The same year, he immigrated to the US where he earned an MFA in Visual Arts from Rutgers University in 2010.
He currently splits his time between Vermont (US) and Leipzig (DE). When he is not working on paintings and films, he teaches as lecturer in Dartmouth College’s Studio Art Department in New Hampshire.
Viktor Witkowski’s films and videos have been screened at numerous festivals in the US and abroad including such venues as the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, the LA Underground Film Forum in Los Angeles, The Artists Forum Festival of the Moving Image in New York City, and the AVIFF Cannes Art Film Festival in Cannes (France).
He received Prize AVIFF incognito 2020 for THE TWINS (Rise & Fall).