World Trade Alphabet Film

Filed under: Editorial — Donna Cameron at 6:35 pm on Sunday, September 10, 2006

by Donna Cameron, Contributing Artist

September 11, 2006- Brooklyn, NY-

Smoke and embers fell in flurries, became a blinding blizzard. The sky darkened around me.

Too soon, large and small papers fell from nowhere, a weird light, a noxious odor, and from nowhere an ominous manna of letters. Fractured pieces of alphabet like dead confetti covered my front stoop.

A priest from the Catholic Church across the street rushed by with a large box full of white paper masks, bending forward like a rescuer heading uphill against a strong wind. Up the block he scurried, and I knew he was going to the parish school there to distribute the masks to the children. Indeed, soon they appeared floating downhill, gait orderly, quick and steady, holding the masks in their small hand, pushing them up to their noses, coughing, looking frozen, scared.

I ran around and closed all the windows in my brownstone. My husky began to howl, then bark. The cat escaped out the front door as usual, a white cat who got lost easily in the white fog and flurry of cascading paper shrapnel. I ran out after him, and as I scooped him up an extra large paper hit my forehead. I looked up; it balanced for a moment on my brow, and then tumbled. I compulsively grabbed it and the cat, ran up the stoop and slammed the door to my house. I at once felt drawn to the large page of paper. It was burnt smoothly around the edges, and it had a form that immediately haunted me. I held it out, turning it over and over. Suddenly it hit me- a head. I held it, by a small stem up to my face in the foyer mirror. The page was the exact shape and size and contour of an adult human head. A human oval with a small stem, like a piece of neck. I knew instantly that this was a pressure photogram. Someone on impact must have fallen forward into their document, imprinted the weight of their head, making a death mask. How many pages were imprinted, I don’t know. I at once felt the spirit of this unknown soul rising from behind the oval photogram in my hand. I began sobbing. No tears, just sobs, and an unknown surge of energy- terror.

Reading it, upon close inspection, I realized that it was a page from a document on AFPs- Alcohol Fuel Plants.

I remembered what I had learned about the alphabet we use daily in my own Catholic school days. Invented by the Phoenicians to further world trade, our alphabet was evolved from the 321+ letters of ancient cuneiform, thousands of years ago in what is now the Middle East. The World Trade Alphabet is perhaps the greatest contribution to democracy and the democratic voice that the world has ever known.

A paradox.

World Trade Alphabet Film, Hand painted 35mmm film, paper process, photograms.

3 feet x 6 feet. Supported by a fellowship from The MacDowell Colony.

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