Tom Otterness on how 9/11 Changed New York Art

9/11, says Tom Otterness, was like science fiction.
  • Transcript


Tom Otterness: Oh, I think it affected us all here. I mean, we were downtown when that was going on. I was across in Brooklyn. I could see the towers burning from where I was in Dumbo, and I couldn’t watch for long. I mean, you could quickly figure out what was happening and it felt immoral somehow to watch it like that. I don’t know what effect that has. It was a kind of science fiction moment, I think, for us in the city to see 42nd Street completely abandoned. It was like those ‘50s science fiction movies where all of New York has no cars and, you know, there was no food and you walked all the way up and, yeah, it was a strange thing. America has never had war on its soil and so I think it is the first example that, you know, to have what that feels like to have that brought home. I don’t know. It’s, again, one of these things that sort of impossible to make sense of or to resolve or say, oh, how or what effect does it have except, you know, it’s a big effect on us all. It is the solution to come out of it with some sense of humor in it and it’s fortunate for me that my humor is black so that it can incorporate this thing. I always, I think my parents, my mom came out of farm, farmer. It’s sort of a farmer’s black humor. I think I got it from my uncle’s, you know. If the weather is really bad or terrible things happens that’s what’s funny, I mean, so there is a kind of melding of those things and it gets you through.