Ann Hamilton Installation
Park Ave Armory
The Park Ave Armory is old and well maintained, with the feel of a mansion and a warehouse simultaneously. After entering through the elaborate lobby area, one passes through a large open doorway into the main space, encountering dark trusses, brick walls, well worn wood floors, and deep shadows. A giant white silky curtain hangs perpendicular to your entry, in the middle of the giant space, extending nearly the entire width and height of the hall. On either side of it, a field of wooden swings hang. From their support ropes, additional ropes attach to the top of the curtain, so as show-goers swing back and forth their movement transfers through these ropes pulling the curtain’s top in a continuous tug of war. At the entrance end of the hall, two people wearing furry capes read from scrolls to pigeons. Their voices are broadcast through paper bags scattered throughout the field of swings. On the other side of the hall, a person in a similar costume continuously writes on ruled pieces of loose paper. A concave mirror somehow attached to the swings hangs over him and moves every once in a while, redirecting intense spots of light. An old typewriter on a podium sits passively closeby, bathed in a perfectly round spotlight.
The work somewhat awkward in layout – as you walk through the field of swings there’s a simultaneous feeling of freedom in the large space but also the feeling that you could be hit by a swinger if you don’t watch out. This necessary heightened awareness adds to the feeling that you’re part of a living organ where you’re in tune to the movement of the curtain, the swings, and the people around you.
Theatre spotlights highlight the important pieces Hamilton has created in the Armory (the swings, the curtain, the tables with the readers, writer, and typewriter), leaving the rest in shadow. Barn doors are used to create perfectly crisp light rectangles on the wood floor under each swing, highlighting their path of movement. Other spotlights very precisely highlight the writer and reader tables with the pigeons and mirrors. More spotlights aim at the giant white satin curtain, whose movement in this direct light emphasizes its sheen.
Because the interior is so dark and only downlights are used, the actual architecture is veiled behind the light sources in shadow, giving the impression that one doesn’t know the actual boundary of the space. The fuzzy peripherals contribute to the surreal magic of the space.
Like Eliasson’s holy grail, the participants truly feel their ability to affect their environment: any action they feed into their swing feeds back to them as air movement throughout the entire space. There is some kind of magic to the whole experience, like you just stumbled onto a portal to a parallel Harry Potter universe. There’s a feeling of community created by the giant curtain – people lay underneath it to watch its movement and feel it’s breeze, as if they were laying on a grassy hill watching the stars come out. It’s both disappointing and poignant that when you actually swing back and forth, your movement does not feel free because of your attachment to the giant curtain and consequently the tug of the other swingers across from you. The magic is really all in the billow of the curtain though – its movement is gigantic and elegant.
From the show title “the event of a thread” and the incredibly celebrated rope system of the swings, one’s first impression is that the concept is about each human’s energy being put into their individual swing, being carried through the fragile yet catalytic element of the rope, and amplified in the movement of the giant curtain, which creates air movement throughout the entire space. However, reading her artist statement in the distributed newspapers at the event, the concept is much broader than that. It’s about crossings – of the body across space in a swing, of the threads within the curtain, of the ropes of the swings, of the voices of the readers to the paper bags. And it’s about the feeling of motion and weightless suspension that one can get from swinging or listening to a book being read. And it’s about cloth as a responsive membrane, almost an extension of the skin. Hamilton layers layers and layers of meaning into her work.
Records and Representation
All the advertisements for the show (yes…advertisements for art…) showed vague shadows of people swinging on swings, to give a hint of the show without giving it all away. Newspapers of fuzzy shadows and the show’s explanation are held near the entrance of the Armory to be taken for free.
the installation is a fully subversive experience that transports you to a different place. the event of a thread takes place in an armory where the interior architecture participates in the adventure. i had the pleaser to interact with the installation by swinging on a swing that is connected to a large silk draped cape which separates the field house in two halves. the popular method of delivering illumination was an ellipsoidal theatrical luminaire lamped with either a warm or cool source. the lights had barn doors and were aimed at the curtain, the strings connecting the swings to the curtain, below the swings, and specific pieces of furniture. i also got to view the lively sheet from the mezzanine level and laying underneath among the radios. i felt that i landed in a place related to a parallel universe. i think that the winter season is a perfect backdrop to the event. i do not think that it would be as successful in the warmer months. we were lucky enough to be able to take photos and bring one of the newspapers displayed at the entrance of the installation home with us.
The Anne Hamiton exhibition at the Armory was like been transported into a living dream. The installation ‘ The event of a thread’ transformed the interior space of the Armouries halls to create an integrated, interactive experience that referenced the buildings architecture. The installation created an immersive environment that multisensory experience, utilizing lighting, sound, live readings, performance and visitor interaction. The piece encouraged participants to interact with the installation and experience the singular and collective body.
The installation was centered around a giant white silky curtain that was lifted 1meter of the ground to divide the space. The curtain was connected to more then 20 double width wooden swings suspended from the rafters by giant chains on either side of the divide. Each swing was set up in a pair, so that there combined motion would effect the curtains movement. On the swing you could feel the push and pull from your connected partner, but rarely see them.
The lighting of the space was immaculate. It was projected from very high up, so that the source was hard to pinpoint. The effect of this was that the floor looked to be magically illuminated. The lighting highlights the swings location with perfect rectangles and illuminated the typewriting stations at either end of the hall with giant spotlights. The white curtain was lit seamlessly to help emphasize its movement. There was a circular mirror located at the far station, which was connected to one of the swings. When it swung in a certain direction it would reflect a specific beam of light, back over the installation.
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.
This show is a complex of sound, rhythm, meditation and dynamic. It allow me to stay there as long as I can to get through the whole experience. The ephemeral presence of time is a huge part of the experience. It worked perfectly with the space of the building’s architecture.
It allows the viewers to fully engage with the space and the work, the sound, the air and the wave. It allows the viewers to see this piece from different angles–underneath the fabric even from a bird view on the second level of the building.
On sunday I helped clean the interior gallery glass, bought cleaning supplies with Renee for glass, cleaned 2 bars and left them in the gallery. I will be touching up bars and glass walls as needed on wed.
today, planning on reserving tvs, still not sure how many we need and helping install the rest of the gila. Possibly clean floors if appropriate. Otherwise that will happen earlier wed.
Wed, facilitate clean up after event.
Here is the budget as of 12/8.
PLEASE tell me about any costs (give me receipts this week) so I can keep everything up to date!!!
Noele and I have finally made some headway with the lighting! I had the great fortune of working for someone with a theater background over the summer who then put me in contact with a rep from ETC and some other reps. Noele and I then proceeded to mail out numerous emails to try to get some fixtures and yesterday we finally got a response from Craig Fox from ETC Lighting and we are happy to finally have some fixtures!! We are to receive in total 4 fixtures, with power cords to each, and lens sets. I would like to propose we start writing Thank you cards as Renee has done for Materials for the Arts and extend our thanks to our sponsors. We are to receive:
I was just sent an email confirming that they are shipping out today. I want to apologize for not being able to get you guys fixtures sooner as Phillips has been extremely busy. As the ETC fixtures are on their way today, we will get them hopefully by this week and finally be able to work with some light! The fixtures from ETC are also donations and will be staying with us in the light lab!