The project Save Manhattan is a reflection on the disaster of September 11, 2001. It consists of three separate pieces, Save Manhattan 01, Save Manhattan 02 and the final version Save Manhattan 03 which is being presented for the first time at the Venice Biennial in 2007. Save Manhattan 01, 2003-04, was composed of a variety of books all of which were written following the events of September 11th, except for the two copies of the Koran. The books are arranged on a table such that a light projected from a distance, creates a harsh outline of the pre 9/11 Manhattan skyline against the wall behind. The two books of the Koran create the spectral image of the twin towers.
In 2005, Mounir Fatmi realized Save Manhattan 02. This installation consists of empty VHS tapes that are stacked on small platform which rests on the floor. The VHS tapes, a common motif in Fatmi’s work, are also arranged to suggest the skyline before the tragedy however, with this piece there is no cast shadow. Save Manhattan 02 is a simple structure of black and white, and while in one sense the tapes can be read as a reflection of all of the frenetic media and harsh imagery the public watched repeatedly after the events, this work essentially seeks to represent a memorial to the media and evoke a moment of silence surrounding all of the chaos which was magnified on every TV station and newspaper around the world.
The final piece in this series is Save Manhattan 03: Sound Architecture. Whereas the first two versions used books and VHS cassettes, this installation utilizes sound as the essential element along with ninety speakers in varying shapes and sizes which are arranged on the floor. This concert of noise is built up from real sounds that reflect the congestion of city life: horns, screeching tires, the subway and crashing cars, and also fictional sounds of explosions that were extracted from dozens of Hollywood blockbuster movies. The synchronized sounds are looped in three parts which then correspond to the architecture of speakers. This work presents a strong image of New York City. It presents the city as if it were a body that breathes, that lives, that suffers and that which is capable of resisting even the most catastrophic events.
A light is projected to create a sharply defined shadow of the pre-9/11 skyline of Manhattan. Here the viewer enters into the space and passes in front of the light, thereby becoming a part of the installation and as such they have inserted themselves into a part of history. This work is determined and constructed by this newly found culture, events and experiences. One cannot regard this installation with the same eye as before because we are all the heirs of a post September 11th world. The story told through this work can be interpreted like the Trojan Horse of our times, through the subtle manner in which the shadow briefly renders this intangible structure, tangible.