Memory Art (Event of A Thread) (Ann Hamilton)


Went to the Park Avenue Armory to see Ann Hamilton’s The Event of A Thread. The centerpiece is a diaphonous white curtain bisecting the drill hall. The whole billowing thing rises and falls in response to the people who come to swing back and forth on the 42 heavy wood plank swings which are attached to it by an elaborate system of cables. These are just one of the threads that animate the space. Other threads are constituted as  communication technologies, to the actors either writing or  reading out loud, at either end of the hall, to the homing pigeons which are released each evening, newspapers, and radios placed in paper bags interspersed throughout the space.

The entire feel is anachronistic. All the threads –the  rigging of the curtain and all the communication technologies– are early modern archaic. It’s art that you have listen to. The radios convey the voice of the readers reading softly in the microphones at one end of the space. You realize that this the event is all about empire, Home, Plato, Aristotle, Romans,  Christendom,  kingship, law, providence, virtue and vice, judgment. The exhibit all hangs  together by threads, by wires, writing, words, speech, concepts, and names.

The cavernous drill hall built of the Armory adds to the sense of time. The Armory was built in 1861 as a military facility and social club habited by the “Silk Stocking” Regiment which included as it members such Gilded Age luminaries as the Vanderbilts, Van Rensselaers, Roosevelts, Stewarts, Livingstons and Harrimans.

All this turgid memory work underlies the sheer spectacle of the event, the undulation of the pristine white fabric, and people having fun, swinging on swings, children running around all over the place, peals of laughter. It left me feeling sloshy  and a little nauseous.

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About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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