A trade between tower one and tower two of the World Trade Centre, between a prince and a cleaner, a prayer rug and a joint. An elevator rescue leads to penetration. The architecture ruptures around two bodies.
Tr@de World is the first presentation of Louis-Philippe Scoufaras in Athens. An open-studio show consisting of a sculptural work in the shape of a monument in progress; a scaled model replica of the former WTC Twin Towers that were brought down in the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York City in 2001. The twin monolithic objects bear a hand-carved short fiction story. It is presented unfinished, consisting of 24 marble slabs, before the act of erection onto large-scale stainless-steel structures.
The story is written in part as a synopsis for a blockbuster film, part fanfiction, part short story bordering the genres of the disaster film, fantasy and homoerotica. We follow two young men between the towers. Engaged, ironic and complex, the plot reiterates the events taking into account class, gender, sexuality and religion, challenging our habitual modes of thought.
The characters are navigating through actual historical events in chronological order. For example, the elevator crashing, the man caught under the marble slab, the wooden balcony built by the art collective Gelitin on the ninety-first floor of World Trade Center 1, the intense thunder and lightning rainstorm on September 10th 2001, are factual.
The plot’s original reference point though, is the 1998 film Titanic. In the movie, there is an effective relationship between the reconstructed body of the doomed ship and the two fictitious characters that navigate their storythroughout the different symbolic locations within it. Tr@de World is a pastiche of the movie’s concept: resurrecting a historic disaster in meticulous detail and inserting interlopers. Titanic integrates a myth into a historical catastrophe, fading into people’s imagination as the predominant memory of the historical event. Fiction becomes reality, and myth defines the truth.
Tr@de World is deliberately transgressive, following the footsteps of the epic disaster film. Inserting a myth, with all the narratives unfolding within a kitsch fake plot, whilst the event is still active in living memory, inhabiting the social psyche of contemporary society. Reading the story might challenge the viewers to process emotions they are still attached to. It is a provocation and a question if we can interpret this ambivalent terror now, with the narrative metamorphosing in disturbing ways.
This event is both historically near, almost palpable, but at the same time banal. Its relevance seems to be long gone for the headlines. Can its 20th anniversary in a few months turn it into yet another blockbuster? The 9/11 attacks brought terror to the forefront of discussion, highlighting its mediatization and manipulations, excess, and endearment. It changed how we live and perceive things, the way we travel and move and brought shifts in the global social, political, and cultural landscape. This fictional story of Tr@de World unfolds itself at a time of another terrorizing context on a global scale, that is changing the mode of life, overlapping and opening to other fears and tensions, demises and enrapturements.
The story has the ephemeral qualities of a script, a treatment that is never meant to be shown yet is paradoxically carved in marble. Terror as “language” is objectified; it becomes a sculpture. It is a monument and implicates the viewers in acknowledging their part in its re-performance, luring and seducing the viewer/reader in its ecstasy, excess, dance of death and atrocious violence.
Reading is always an act of performance, either silent or audible; it involves a critical engagement with multiple textualities. As Rustom Bharucha argues, the text is not just passive; textuality is even more fluid a category in so far as it can exist only in the state of a text being textured – or, more precisely, performed – in specific ways. Here the texture of the text becomes literal in many ways. At the same time, it recalls Marcus Steinweg thinking of terror as a loss of language, by means of sense, shredding the promise of sense in the coherence known as the world and revealing the naked incoherence of the world.
Tr@de World is a series of contradictions. When language is lost, terror becomes a text, and text becomes a sculpture and a monument that entails and is entailed by diverse performances. It takes the form of a conservative standard historical monument. It could be a monument for September 11th. But monuments are a subjective recording of history, grotesque fictions, usually historicizing certain events from the perspective of the dominant political force of their time. Tr@de World, acting as a monument in its shape and form, transgresses the idea of who is in power. By making a monument, the artist contests this dominant force giving space for subjugated positions. Louis-Philippe Scoufaras, in inescapable irony, selects the Monument Grotesk font for this writing. The artist is looking at questions of form and politics and their interconnections. This conceptual layering follows the original story that it tries to understand, like an act of a Greek tragedy, with complex historical developments, crises, political struggle, power and sentiment excess.
The work was commissioned by a private collector in Germany, supporting the artist during the pandemic.