"The following pieces of paper
blew into the
Carroll Gardens
neighborhood in
Brooklyn, New York."

exhibit 13 is a short film produced by the Blue Man Group. It is available for viewing at http://www.exhibit13.com or http://www.blueman.com.

There is not much information about the video to be gleaned from either website, but it has been covered in the major media lately. From what I have been able to gather, exhibit 13 is Blue Man Group's memorial to the September 11th terrorist attacks. Opening with the above quote, the entire video consists of pieces of paper falling from the top of screen. The group's trademark pipe music plays gently in the background, and human voices are overlaid intermittently. The papers are sparse at the start, as are the voices. At a moment further into the video, the paper starts coming down much more heavily, and the voices become much more numerous.

All of the papers are burned, torn, or singed around the edges.

When I first watched it, this video seemed an insultingly insufficient memorial to those lost. A few papers falling? Some voices? My 14-year old brother in high school could have whipped up something more visually impressive in an hour. While I did not know personally anyone who died in the attacks, I imagined that anyone who did would feel betrayed by such a seemingly vapid "tribute". So I watched it again. After all, I had been captivated by Blue Man Group's stage shows, and wanted to believe that there was something in exhibit 13 that I wasn't seeing.

There was. What I saw, what I felt the second time watching was what I imagine someone walking in that neighborhood would have at around 9:00 AM. The first papers seemed whimsical, as if a young child on top of a nearby building was up to no good. Picking them up and seeing office papers, burned and some in foreign languages, would have been confusing. But when the deluge of yellow sheets, burned and torn as if from a gigantic fire, began raining down, it would have been obvious that this was no carefree child's work. Something terrible must have happened.

Seeing that, feeling the imminent horror of the person witnessing these papers was feeling, brought me to a place I don't want to go again. While I am glad to have seen this short film, it will be some time before I have the courage to watch it again. Anyone who has not yet come to terms with the loss of a loved on that day would be well advised to think twice before watching it. I know that there could never be a more poingant, powerful memorial than this film.

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