Saturday, September 6, 2003 Statement Regarding September 11 Image, Phoenix Rising

by Clinton Fein

Occasionally, an artist produces a work that provokes such a visceral response; it forces him or her to reconsider the original intent of the piece.

I usually do not make a habit of explaining my work any more than I already do, contextualizing it with quotes or anecdotes that give an indication as to how the piece evolved.

Phoenix Rising is an exception. Within hours of it being published on on September 5, 2003, I received veiled, and some not-so-veiled, threats of harm or violence. It is not the first time.

I am aware the image has been posted on many Independent Media sites and beyond, and have been receiving questions and comments from “how could I do this?” and “this is the most offensive thing I’ve EVER seen” to “a stunning creation from you that will commemorate the despicable event.”

It seems as though a number of people are blaming Independent Media ( for publishing this, for which they are not responsible. Anyone can, and it appears, does publish there, under anyone’s name.

Apparently Independent Media in the Netherlands pulled the image, calling it “tasteless.”

While I’m thankful I am not dependent on other sites or publications for the publishing of my work, it’s disappointing to think that Independent Media, of all media, in the Netherlands of all places, would censor work designed to focus attention on the rise of fascism and loss of civil liberties in the wake of September 11. That is what the piece is about. Would they have censored John Heartfield in the thirties? Squelching dissent, however strong or unpopular perpetuates the very essence of what the piece is about.

For what it’s worth, since people seem to be very stuck in their opinions one way or the other, the piece is not designed to denigrate the memory of those who died or undermine the hideousness of what happened on September 11. That is what commoditization and politicization -- the little twin tower key-chains, empty promises and political conventions -- are for.

Lack of understanding of human nature, and worse, a failure to speak out forcefully, leads to, if not facilitates, tragedies and destruction, be it in Berlin, Manhattan, Baghdad or Hiroshima.

The image will remain on


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