In the context of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, in the midst of a sudden deepening of the economic crisis partly or entirely overshadowing the occasion, we hear raised from every corner primordial demands for the necessity of sacrifice and self-inflicted wounding as the only adequate response to the gravity of the situation. The intensification of the economic calamity itself has by any measure been intentional, while nationwide the only audible voices seem to be those calling for austerity and for every budget to be ‘cut.’ The moment thus urgently prompts the question of whether a seminal insight that has lapsed-the insight from which the whole of radical modernism developed-can be recovered: the insight into the primitive in ourselves and in the world around us. `Severe Clear’-the weather alert issued to pilots on September 11th, 2001-is an excursus on this question that examines the sacral edifice now being constructed in lower Manhattan.
Robert Hullot-Kentor is Professor of Visual and Critical Studies and Chair of the Graduate Program in Critical Theory and the Arts at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. He has been a participating editor of T. W. Adorno’s Collected Writings (Gesammelte Schriften), has translated several of Adorno’s works, and is currently working on a new translation of Negative Dialectics. He is also author of Things Beyond Resemblance: Collected Essays on Theodor W. Adorno (Columbia UP, 2006).