I don’t make many new year resolutions, but one thing that I want to do this year is to see more art.
While I somehow managed to miss the Cindy Sherman show at MoMA this year, there was no way that I could miss Ann Hamilton‘s installation at the Park Avenue Armory. Hamilton is one of my favorite, if not perhaps my very favorite living artist. It’s not often that she exhibits in New York so experiencing her work in person is a rare treat.
The Park Avenue Armory, a 55,000 square foot space on the Upper East Side that allows works of art with unique and unconventional space requirements, is a treasure in and of itself. The last time we were there was nearly three years ago to see an installation by Ernesto Neto. Like the Neto, the Ann Hamilton installation is a multi-sensory experience that invites the audience to participate, inhabit and control the movements of the piece.
It never really occurred to me that unless you have a kid, swinging on swings might be something that some adults haven’t done in years, even since they were children. That’s the sentiment I kept hearing when we were there on a rainy Saturday after the holidays. It was crowded when we went, but because the pull and push of the swings control the undulating movements of the massive curtains in the center of the space, the installation was very active, kinetic and visceral. Unlike playground swings, the length of the chains are enormously long which resulted in a ride that was more akin to sailing through the air in long strides. You didn’t ever really go high or fast, but these swings took you farther. The whole experience was surreal and oddly soothing.
I also didn’t expect that laying down underneath the curtain would be as relaxing as it was. I heard one man describe the experience as feeling like a child laying on the floor and looking up a woman’s dress hem. For me, it almost felt like I was floating in water even though I was laying on a hardwood floor. The rise and fall of the curtains swirling above had a transporting effect.
Ann Hamilton’s work often has an element of performance art. Dotted along the space are 42 radios hidden in paper bags that you can pick up and carry around with you. 2 speakers wearing wooly capes broadcast passages of text from various authors to the radios. In front of them are homing pigeons which are said to be released to fly around the space at the end of each day. On the other side of the space sits a writer at a desk. Also at the end of each day, a singer serenades the audience from the balcony and the performance is cut on a record lathe to be rebroadcast the next morning. On the day that we were there, someone had seen my instagram photos and tweeted that he was the singer for that evening.
“The Event of a Thread” is at the Armory for 3 more days, closing on Sunday, January 6th.