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Faculty in Focus - Art Herbig

The documentary film, “Never Forget: 9/11 and Public Memory,” is a project started by Art Herbig (associate professor of communication), former COAS faculty member Aaron Hess, and Alix Watson (WANE) in 2011. They went to New York City to interview people at Ground Zero during the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Herbig and Hess used this footage, combined with interviews from academics, to create a documentary about public memory, or how people choose to remember figures and events from thier past.

Herbig developed an interest in documentary film-making and rhetoric while completing his PhD. His dissertation was on Pat Tillman, the NFL football player who, soon after the 9/11 attacks, left the Arizona Cardinals to become an Army Ranger and died in Afghanistan. The rhetoric surrounding this public figure was of special interest to Herbig: “I grew up with Pat. We played on the same soccer team when we were three. I was having a conversation with his mother, and she mentioned how the Pat Tillman they were talking about on TV wasn’t someone she recognized. It wasn’t someone I recognized either. I found that really compelling, so I started to look at the ways in which Pat Tillman as a public figure was rhetorically constructed.”

While researching, Herbig spoke with Amir Bar-Lev, who created a documentary on Tillman, The Tillman Story.  “He and I were talking about the story and directions to go, and I found myself really pulled in by the notion that documentary is just good argument. It’s an argument with visuals and audio, but it’s still just rhetoric. At that point I was sure that I wanted to do work with the camera.”

Herbig recently edited a collection of scholarly articles on rhetoric and media, but he believes the film work is important. The film reaches people “beyond those who are going to read the book or pick up an academic journal.” In October, Herbig screened the documentary at a Seattle film festival and was thrilled by the audience’s lively post-viewing discussion about public memory.

To learn more about Herbig and his projects, watch the documentary trailer, view the Faculty in Focus interview, or contact COAS's Department of Communication.