NY WTC: A Living Archive

Afterwords - Afterimages

Very tall buildings arouse powerful fears and emotions. Acrophobia (fear of high places), batophobia (fear of high objects), and anablepophobia (fear of looking up at high places) are experienced by a number of people. Yet some skyscraper associations are positive ones — the magical Chrysler Building and Eiffel Tower spring to mind. In the hands of the media — the indelible images of the WTC bombing and the later tragedy at Oklahoma City dominated headlines and television screens for weeks — a negative depiction of skyscrapers can gain a stranglehold on the collective imagination. Just one building can come to represent an entire city — even an entire culture. from Skyscrapers, Judith Dupré. Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, New York.

1996. p. 67. (This fun coffee-table book measures 7.5" x 18.25")

Contributed by Loretta Yeo.


In Roman mythology, doors and gateways were protected by the god Janus. He began as a god of light, who opened the sky at daybreak and closed it at night. Janus evolved into a diety of beginnings and endings, entrances and exits. He was depicted as looking both toward the past and future. It is this double faced image of him that is appears on Roman coins. A temple to Janus was built near the forum in Rome. According to legend, the temple doors were kept open in wartime and locked only in times of peace a total of four times from the earliest kings until the reign of Augustus.

Janus lends his name to the month of January the end of one year and the beginning of another , and also to the word Janitor which originally designated a person who presided over comings and goings.

Iroquois Twins

Interpretation of a beaded bag (Seneca?) C. 1830: Two male figures joined at the hip: these are the twins born to Skywoman's daughter. In some versions, one twin is Skyholder (the good mind) and his brother is Flint (mischevious mind). Their life force is represented by lines of red beads emanating from their mouths and Flint is portrayed with a shaft protruding from his forehead. As Skyholder walked the earth he created life-sustaining plants and animals. Flint unwittingly made poisonous versions of th these good things.

In Iroquois beadwork, paired scrolling lines in curves suggest the movement of Skywoman as she walked Great Turtle's back. When these lines are facing in opposite directions, the double curves suggest duality of twins and the effort to keep life in balance.

Two scrolled lines in opposite directions may represent both the celestial tree, and also the struggle to negotiate a path between opposing forces of the twins.

Skydome: Concentric domes representing three levels of cosmos: sky world, this world and underworld.

-- source: Across Borders: Beadwork in Iroquois Life, an exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian, 2001-02

Bifacial Head (Moa Aringa)

One of the works on display in the exhibit Splendid Isolation: The Art of Easter Island, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, is a very striking sculpture consisting of two representations of human faces joined back to back to form a bifacial or Janus-faced head about1/2 life size. On loan from the New Brunswick Museum, the sculpture dates from the 1840s, and is made of painted barkcloth over a wooden frame. The accompanying description states that it may depict a legendary warrior Rau-hiva-aringa-erua ("Twin Two-Faces"). Rapa Nui oral tradition describes a battle between two rival chiefs. Rau-hiva-aringa-erua, the son of one of them had two face — one facing forward, the other backward. During the battle, the rear face saw an enemy approaching and asked the front face to turn around and look. When the front face refused, the two began arguing and ignoring the enemy, who slew the bifacial warrior.

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Last Updated October 12, 2002