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Create possibility.

Defying Gravity: Ann Hamilton’s The Event of a Thread

I have been sharing some amazing and innovative design projects recently, through which we can see, and learn about the process of creating possibility, and new ways of seeing.  The design world is chock full of brilliant, brave and adventurous people, who show us, and invite us to participate in their process, and their, and our potential as creative, connected beings.

Cindy Allen, editor in chief of Interior Design writes, “Making the extraordinary from the ordinary by sculpting in paper, innovating innovation in a decaying paint factory, exploring your inner child while defying gravity. These are mere morsels of the delicious—and staggeringly creative—feast that we are proud to serve up for you in the Big Ideas issue.”

Ann Hamilton’s “The Event of a Thread,” was shown this winter at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City, and is one of “100 Big Ideas” selected this year by Interior Design.

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“The Event of a Thread” is an installation that was set in the 55,000-square-foot Wade Thompson Drill Hall of the Armory. Strewn across the center is a large, wafting, white curtain, and on either side, 42 wooden swings suspended from beamed ceilings. The swings and curtain are connected by a rope-and-pulley system, which connects the movement of both as well.  Roberta Smith writes in the New York Times of the connectedness of it: “… if you paused in your swinging, you could feel the rest of the interconnected system pulse and gyrate, a momentary demonstration — at once silly and profound — that we are, indeed, all connected.”

Francesca G. Bewer, Research Curator, Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, Harvard Art Museums (and, full disclosure, my dear cousin), said of the installation: “I experienced “The Event of a Thread” in the company of a friend and former colleague based in NYC — a dear, fellow creative spirit who I had not seen in a while.

What surprised me from the start was how intimate and at the same time, social an experience it was, considering the vast space we were in, and the fact that we were surrounded by many strangers.

There was a feeling of shared openness and delight, wonderment, curiosity, playfulness… something that resembled a communal taking of a deep breath. It was a very meditative experience, much like watching the flames of a campfire, or the endless repeating and always different wash of waves breaking and receding on the ocean beach.”

Hamilton’s piece also includes homing pigeons, radios in paper bags (visitors can carry these around for a listen), and two people broadcasting snippets of text over those portable radios.

Take a peek:

On her piece, Ann Hamilton writes:

“I can remember the feeling of swinging—how hard we would work for those split seconds, flung at furthest extension, just before the inevitable downward and backward pull, when we felt momentarily free of gravity, a little hiccup of suspension when our hands loosened on the chain and our torsos raised off the seat. We were sailing, so inside the motion—time stopped—and then suddenly rushed again toward us. We would line up on the playground and try to touch the sky, alone together.”

No two voices are alike. No event is ever the same. Each intersection in this project is both made and found. All making is an act of attention and attention is an act of recognition and recognition is the something happening that is thought itself. As a bird whose outstretched wings momentarily catch the light and change thought’s course, we attend the presence of the tactile and perhaps most importantly—we attend to each other. If on a swing, we are alone, we are together in a field. This condition of the social is the event of a thread. Our crossings with its motions, sounds, and textures is its weaving; is a social act.”

Bewer recalls, “We too had our turn on one of the swings… solo and together… and that brought back memories of childhood swinging, though these oversized, smooth wooden boards suspended on long chains belonged to a realm of Alice in Wonderland and Leonardo da Vinci combined. And here again, great shared curiosity about how our movements were contributing to the overall dance of the cloth, and what the other swings/people were generating. We were all puppets and puppeteers, performers and audience members at the same time.”

Where might you create an awareness of being alone and together with those around you? And, of how your motion has a ripple effect on the motion of people and things around you? How might that change how you see and experience the world?

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Karen Steinberg