Words We Have Learned Since 9-11 is a unique participatory photographic project by Los Angeles visual artist, Clayton Campbell. Words originated in 2004 when he began the project with his son. Since then, it has created a visual conversation between various international communities about how people view themselves in a post “9-11” reality through learned or re-contextualized language. Public participation remains at the core of Campbell’s project. Exhibition visitors are invited to participate by first identifying words they have learned or gained new meaning since 9-11, and then being photographed and instantaneously installed into the exhibition. The photographic series has grown in size to over 1,000 images and has been seen in numerous museums worldwide since 2004.
Given the naturally elastic nature of the exhibition’s content, Words is able to extend a conversation beyond the confines of the 9-11 context. Ten years after the attacks on New York’s World Trade Center, the exhibition, curated by Zandie Brockett, will be shown in China for the first time at Three Shadows Photography Art Centre. Considering natural tendencies for perceptions to be based upon geographic regions or cultural experiences, the exhibition’s expansion into China will unfold a discourse that contrasts its Western and Middle Eastern counterparts. Brockett intends to engage a Chinese audience in a dialogue that discusses the byproducts of a developing world-power during the post-9-11 decade as well as the indirect impacts of September 11th on China’s increasingly globalized society, economy and foreign policy.
Campbell collaborates with local artists to assist with the implementation of the participatory aspect, and also to provide a community outlet so that locals may be exposed to the images and dialogue. The opening of this exhibition comes after the commencement of its participatory aspect during the opening week of Caochangdi PhotoSpring—Arles in Beijing, April 2012, which was conducted by Brockett, who is also serving a collaborating artist.