Monday, June 6, 2011

Epilogue: Mourning Tower, Mourning Train

The spontaneously formed crowds of people who gathered beside the tracks to witness the passing of the funeral train that carried Robert F. Kennedy’s body from New York City to Washington D.C. on June 8, 1968 are testament to our capacity for shared grief. The immediacy and magnitude of the expression of public mourning over the loss of such an inspiring public figure revealed in the photographs by Paul Fusco has a fascinating psychological impact.  It is a record of the emotional facts.  It shows that as a country we have the capacity to mourn together, out in the open. Or that we had it once. It also underscores the multitudes of nearly anonymous, officially obscured military-related deaths that currently go un-recognized.  Have we forgotten how to grieve together? 

The idea of “public morning” resonates with me as I’ve recently completed the installation, “Mourning Tower” at Queens College Art Center, which calls for a remembrance of those who have been killed or wounded at this time of war.   A visual link between Fusco’s photographs of the Kennedy train ride and the installation is the iconic image of the American flag.  The difference is that the outpouring of grief after Kennedy’s assassination was immediate, unrestrained, and shared throughout the republic, but the casualties from our current wars are not publicized - there is a public “un-mourning” that surrounds them. Fusco has addressed this in another beautiful photographic series of photographs of grieving families called "Bitter Fruit."

Fusco and art dealer James Danziger talked about that historic day at a panel discussion at Aperture Gallery, the resulting photographs, and what the photographs have come to mean.  The panel was held to publicize the debut of Jennifer Stoddart’s film, “A Thousand Pictures,” tomorrow night on HBO and Aperature’s publication of the book, Paul Fusco: RFK both examining Fusco’s accomplishment.  In concert with the book publication and the film release, 20x200, the on-line art editions gallery, will be offering a limited edition of a pair of Fusco’s funeral train images this Wednesday to support the Magnum Foundation.

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