September 11th Memorial Installation 九一一紀念的装置
- Chee Wang Ng 吳子雲

As “Bread is the Staff of Life” to Westerners, rice is essential to Asians and to the Chinese in particular. It nourishes and underpins the foundation of the culture and the civilization—a symbol of life and living.

    In the civil Confucian tradition, a meal is a rite at a round table where everyone is at rest, sharing the day’s bounty. You take only what you need with your own chopsticks and eat off your own bowl. In this deeply relevance ritual, you select your portion and establish your dietary likes and dislikes, thus creating your identity in the community.

    There is a sacred bond between the individual and his and her utensils. More than just mannerism; as the way our table are set, chopsticks should always be place on the side. It is taboo to stick chopsticks vertically into the rice bowl because it resembles joss-sticks, offering to the dead not ment for the living. The departed are honored with offerings of incense in the form of joss-sticks.

    The September 11th tragedy brought forth a massive expression of grief at all levels of society, from private mourning to huge public vigils. Prayer candles were everywhere, and there were mourners at Union Square and every street corner of New York City. There is a sudden surge of patriotism as American flags covered every possible surface. At the time, I was working on my on-going photography series entitled “Eaten Your Fill of Rice?”—a series that focuses on the contemporary correctness of traditional symbolism and allegory on identity and greetings. I was so horrified to the extent that I could no longer work. I had to break my silence and speak out in defense to humanity. This is my personal offering to September 11th and to those lost at the World Trade Center.

    This installation marked for the nation’s loss of innocence by transforming the seven red strips of the US flag into seven red bleeding lines—the blood of the victims—that covers the large bowl. The ten inch wide bowl is filled with rice not for the living but as a sacrificial offering to the dead. The rice is left to rot for the duration of the exhibition. Resembling the Twin Towers, a pair of chopsticks is stuck vertically into the bowl of rice—a toboo in Chinese culture. Encircling the bowl are blue prayer candles covered with a total of fifty stars. The low murmuring of a Buddhist salvation prayer for the dead can be heard emanating from underneath the low circular table. This is a round low table for one. When will the nations of the world come together at this table of humanity?

* Eaten Your Fill of Rice? - Chee Wang Ng.
   ISBN: 0-9761698-0-0     Copyright © 2004