I found this show to be one of the best art instillation I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. I was completely captured by it. I don’t think my mind ever strayed out of the building while there; and I felt as if I were totally immersed in the world Ann Hamilton created.
FORM: Fabric, lights, swings, people, pigeons, a mirror, room sound, bells, radios, song, air, movement. These were the main elements I noticed while there. A large fabric curtain divides the Armory’s Drill hall in half. On either side of the curtain a symmetrical formation of swings hang. As each swing is propelled by a person swinging, a tread that has been attached to it contributes to the moving of the curtain. On the other side, the opposite and connected swing in the same location connects to the same thread connecting to the curtain. A sort of swing propelled pulley system to move the curtain. If I stopped moving on my swing, and the person on my sister swing on the other side of the curtain kept swinging, I could feel them, in little heaves via the chains holding my swing.
SPACE/TIME: The lighting in the space seemed constant over time, the same. Dimly lit, the large room remains vast, but also intimate because of the low light. Focused spot lights with narrowed barn doors provide rectangles of light which describe the path of each moving swing. The only time I noticed the light change was before and during the singing at the end of the day. The lights dimmed and a large spot light illuminated the balcony where the singer stood.
While in the space, I had a sense of losing time, I lingered for about 2 hours there. And it seemed I wasn’t the only one lingering and really spending time with the work.
LIGHTING MECH. From what I could see, all the mechanics, lighting and otherwise, were clearly visible. Including the people reading the scripts for the paper bag radios, and the woman writing at the opposite end of the hall. Plus the machine that records the singing on a piece of vinyl to be played the next day. Other than the lights, much of the mechanics seemed equally lost in time with the piece. Nothing was glaringly modern to my naked eye, which allowed me to become more immersed in the work.
OPTICAL RESPONSE: The room is low lit, your eyes adjust the the warm tones. Because the Drill Hall is so large and dimly lit, the edges of it often fade away when looking closely at certain things. The periphery became fuzzy for me at times. And then at other times, because of the benches lining the edge of the hall, the periphery is very real and another place from which to experience the event.
EMOTIONAL RESPONSE: I processed this in stages. First there was the entry and seeing the curtain, then there was the bee-line to a swing and swinging, feeling it out, seeing what was happening, playing. Then I wanted to go to the opposite swing and swing opposite a stranger, to notice our effect on the curtain. Even though I wasn’t close enough to see the face of the woman swinging across from me, I found myself smiling at her. Then for a while I sat on the swing listening to a paper bag radio. I don’t remember the words now, but I remember being moved by them and the sound of the readers voice, even though it was abstract for me, not a recognizable train of thought.
I walked to the rear of the room and then went to lie down under the curtain. I stayed there for some time. The swinging made me feel a little weird after a while, but lying under the curtain, while mesmerizing and beautiful, was also somewhat unsettling. Like becoming very small in a room full of whirling dervishes.
Then I roamed, looked at the pigeons and the readers. I went and looked at the video of Ann Hamilton talking, I think about some of the inspiration for the show, regarding the archives from the civil war that belong to the Armory? I could be wrong on that. I felt though that she had been using the location and it’s history as part of the work. I’ll have to look into that further.
Finally we sat on a bench along the wall and waited for the singer. Finally the lights dimmed, and a hush came over the room. The woman began singing, and everyone remained quiet and in place, looking up towards the balcony where the spotlight shone on her. It was very surreal, like the show, and very beautiful. A huge shadow of her bust was projected on the white curtain while she sang. The singing stopped and the lights stayed low and people began to filter out.