Artist's Performance Offends 9/11 Families

A performance artist wearing a business suit and safety harnesses jumped repeatedly from a museum roof to create photographs that recall scenes from the World Trade Center (search) attack, but his spectacle was scorned by some onlookers and victims' relatives.

Collaborating photographers snapped away as Kerry Skarbakka (search) fell more than 30 times from the five-story Museum of Contemporary Art (search) on Tuesday. The photographs will be retouched to erase the pulleys and wires that kept Skarbakka from hitting the pavement.

Skarbakka, 34, said he started thinking about falling after watching on television as workers jumped to their deaths from the twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001.

"I was so distraught, I needed some way to find an artistic response," he told the Chicago Sun-Times. Now, he says he sees falling as a metaphor for life.

"Mentally, physically and emotionally, from day to day, we fall. Even walking is falling: You take a step, fall and catch yourself," he said.

Skarbakka, who lives in New York and was named by ArtReview magazine last fall as an outstanding young photographer, has exhibited similar images of previous jumps.

His antics on Tuesday attracted a crowd of gawkers, who became sidewalk critics.

"It was fabulous," said Darlene Schuff, 56. "I just wanted to be a part of it. It's a happening."

Others in the crowd said Skarbakka's effort was too staged to have meaning.

In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg (search) called it "nauseatingly offensive," and some who lost family and friends at the trade center agreed.

"What kind of a sick individual is he? Tell him to go jump off the Empire State Building and see how it feels," Rosemarie Giallombardo, whose son Paul Salvio died in the terrorist attack, told the (New York) Daily News. "He's an artist? Go paint a bowl of fruit or something."