The genesis of the idea of High Rise occurred while I stood on top of the World Trade Center. Looking down from such symbolic heights, I thought of the Chapter, "The Mast-head," in Herman Melville's Moby Dick, where Ishmael states,
In this enchanted mood, thy spirit ebbs away to whence it came; becomes diffused through time and space; like Wickliff's sprinkled Pantheistic ashes, forming at last a part of every shore the round globe over. There is no life in thee, now, except that rocking life imparted by a gently rolling ship; by her, borrowed from the sea; by the sea, from the inscrutable tides of God. But while this sleep, this dream is on ye, move your foot or hand an inch; slip your hold at all; and your identity comes back in horror.
As I stood there looking so far down, my mind and body a mix of both euphoria and fear, I was suddenly struck with the horrific thought of what would ever happen if there was an earthquake in this city (for I had heard that there was an earthquake fault in NY), or if a terrorist organization tried to bomb the towers again and succeeded in making them fall. I was unnaturally drawn to such thoughts, for on Oct 17, 1989, I was on the Bay Bridge when the San Francisco earthquake hit, and I'll never forget the panic and fear from everyone, myself included, as I ran away from the span that fell, desperately trying to make it to safety, all the while vividly aware of all that steel above me and the ocean so far below. Then looking down at the hair-thin streets and micro tops of taxis amid moving dots of color in NY that day, I couldn't fathom an image of such a massive structure falling from such a great height, and yet, I knew that nothing was ever failsafe or permanent.
Afterwards, I thought about the making of High Rise. I wanted to sculpt a piece that encapsulated the great heights to which humankind was capable of achieving, and yet at the same time, show the importance of being aware of our surroundings -- of being engaged in a delicate balancing act. Eyes fixated on the stars above, it was equally important to pay attention to the placement of our feet. The higher we go, the farther we could fall, the more important it would be for us as a race to be cognizant of the underlying structure we're all a part of.
The sculpture was almost complete when the towers fell on Sept 11.