“Watching a raw material become a single thread, join other thread to become a warp or weft of a cloth or carpet holds for me all the possibilities for making; sewing and writing are for me two parts of the same hand.” Ann Hamilton
cloth, the first architecture for the body, is the hand that is always touching us
Enter an immense and immersive installation at Pier 9 along the Delaware River. In this place of transition from water to land, a field of spinning curtains creates an interior landscape within which, suspended in time, a visitor can be both lost and held. Operating a pulley system, visitors propel giant cylindrical curtains to billow to gigantic proportions. As cloth swaddles at birth and covers in sleep; as a folded blanket can tell a story of trade; as a flag carries the symbol of a nation, habitus invites you to touch and be touched by the fabric of human experience.
A visual artist internationally recognized for the sensory surroundings of her large-scale multimedia installations, Ann Hamilton’s art making serves as an invocation of place, of collective voice, of communities past and of labor present.
Free / Ongoing
Open until 8pm on Thursdays
Ann Hamilton: habitus also includes a corresponding exhibition of historical objects—including literary commonplace books, textile sample books, dolls, and needlework portfolios—at The Fabric Workshop and Museum from Saturday, September 17, 2016 to Sunday, January 8, 2017.
(Image) Ann Hamilton, (habitus • doll ) Doll, 1800–1820. Papier-mâché; Wood; Linen; Cotton; Paint; Silk. Courtesy of Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, Gift of Katherine Gahagan, Michael H. du Pont, and Christopher T. du Pont in memory of A. Felix du Pont, Jr., 1999.19.1.
About Ann Hamilton
Born in Lima, Ohio, in 1956, Ann Hamilton received a BFA in textile design from the University of Kansas in 1979 and an MFA in sculpture from the Yale School of Art in 1985. Among her many honors, Hamilton has been the recipient of the Heinz Award, MacArthur Fellowship, United States Artists Fellowship, NEA Visual Arts Fellowship, Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award and the Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship. She has exhibited extensively around the world. Her major commissions include projects for Waterfront Seattle (upcoming); Park Avenue Armory (2013); The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, St. Louis (2010); The Guggenheim Museum, New York (2009); Contemporary Art Museum, Kumamoto, Japan (2006); La Maison Rouge Fondation de Antoine Galbert, Paris, France (2005); Historiska Museet, Stockholm, Sweden (2004); MASS MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts (2003); The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C. (2003, 1991); The Wanas Foundation, Knislinge, Sweden (2002); The Musee d’art Contemporain, Lyon, France (1997); The Art Institute of Chicago (1995); The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1994); The Tate Gallery, Liverpool (1994); Dia Center for the Arts, New York (1993); The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1988).
Interview with Ann Hamilton
Ann Hamilton: The Fabric Workshop and Museum is rooted in the history of cloth, textile related processes and productions. They make a place for artists to explore and extend their vocabularies, to ask “What if?” My history also begins with a cloth on my lap and so this project began in response to our shared legacy and collaborations by exploring Philadelphia based textile collections and local industries who have been in production over several generations—such as Littlewood Dyers, which does vat dying of raw fiber for a whole host of clients including the intense purple in a Disney costumes and the deep blue/black of Navy wools. The several hour tour of Littlewood, a highlight along with the loom and weaving production at Langhorne Carpet Company, where the scale—the reeling of thread and the looms that have been in operation for decades are inspiration for several projects to come. Watching a raw material become a single thread, join other thread to become a warp or weft of a cloth or carpet holds for me all the possibilities for making; sewing and writing are for me two parts of the same hand. In the former the hand directs with subtle sureness a needle through a cloth up, down, up then down again and again and again, a running succession, the trail of thread making one out of what was once two. The pace is regular like walking, like writing. It keeps the body busy so the mind can wander.
FringeArts: What is the process from initial idea to installation?
Ann Hamilton: A project always begins with an intuition, a hunch, a half formed question—these direct the research and through an associative and often circuitous process the project forms from trying to understand them. The challenge is to trust the process and remain open to change. To keep putting your needle down into the cloth and see what is drawn up from underneath. I suppose it is a little like fishing. You have to wait and see what you will find and in waiting you have to pay attention to everything. The field of spinning curtains in the pier depends upon scale—the interior is a landscape within which you can be both lost and held, . . it uniquely invites a sociability, an access, suspends a sense of time. I love working in large spaces – their large volumes seem to breathe air into our own interior volumes . . . Make us feel both larger and smaller.
Ann Hamilton: My approach to a site is always to find how to work with what it is—to orient towards its light, touch its perimeters, to engage but not to fill it. To make a condition for attention. I begin by walking the space—trying to listen to it through my feet. It probably seems obvious but at Pier 9 one can’t help but be drawn by the tracks that run down its middle—the feeling of it dampened surface, the glimmer of the Delaware through the door slits, the sense of it as a place of transition—of storage—a space that is always changing.
FringeArts: How do the pulleys work?
Ann Hamilton: The curtains spin horizontally but the propelling motion transfers the upstroke and down stroke of flax change ringing ropes via wheel and pulley.
At the pier, with the ropes hung in pairs, there is an element of cooperation, of motion and sound generated when everyone is working together. The circling curtains in concert with the up and down of the ropes pulling will make a weather of sound and motion might feel like singing.
Wool threads are twisted into three strands of a bell rope to form a thick plush center. This thickened section is called a sally—as in “to sally forth” coming from the latin salire which means to leap. It marks the strokes and protects the change ringers from the chafing of the linen. On the upstroke the wool travels out of the ringer’s hand, on the down stroke it pulls back toward the ringer’s chest. The hand, listening to the ear must know when to pull, when to hold and when to let go. The pattern of letting go and catching, is the sounding, is the counting time of the body. This hearing is how we touch at a distance.
Ann Hamilton: The surround of the oversized curtains, the feeling of the plush threaded ropes in hand, the rhythm of the body pulling up and down, the reel of words slowly unfolding in a continuum, like the river itself, the changing light and air together have the possibility of making a space to be in, to enter into like you enter a book, you don’t know where it will take you but you enter anyway. What is important is not only where it takes you—it is also always where you take yourself and how you allow yourself to respond, to feel and to be. In the end this relationship is individual but my hope is that the circumstances are a sharing. The process is an act of finding. This project is the shaping that is the air of motion around us; the air that, like cloth, is always touching us.
Ann Hamilton: “ghost: a border act,” ART21
Excerpt: I started in weaving, in textiles. I think that my first hand is still a textile hand, in some ways. But I was very dissatisfied with the flatness that things actually had when they were done. It seemed like they were dead, in some ways. Read the full article.
The Audience as Art Movement: Ann Hamilton at the Park Avenue Armory by Roberta Smith, the New York Times
Excerpt: In the early 1990s she became known for tightly controlled, sometimes hauntingly beautiful environments, where solitary performers conducted repetitive, even penitential tasks. Read the full article.