208. Better Than Oz

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Ann Hamilton’s latest exhibit at the Park Avenue Armory gives new meaning to the term “swingers”. After visiting this impressive installation today, I have a new appreciation for how artists think and what they can create from just a spark of an idea. Everyone from kids to grandparents found themselves immersed in childhood wonderment thanks to the oversized swings that hung from the ceiling and the attached threads that whimsically raised a giant curtain in the center of the room. “the event of a thread” literally transformed what looked like an airplane hanger into a adult-sized playground.

My eyes were immediately drawn to the large white curtain in front of me as I walked through the entrance to the installation. It was massive. It looked as wide as a football field, yet it felt playful, like I was about to meet the Wizard of Oz. Walking closer, I noticed a large group of people lying directly underneath it. As I laid down, I was captured by the beauty of something so simple. The person next to me said, “It feels like I’m watching the ocean.” And it did. Here’s a few seconds so you can get the idea (disregard the “last export” business, minor technical difficulty):

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It was hard to walk through the exhibit without being happily interrupted by smiling faces from those who were perfectly perched on various wooden swings. Hesitant adults climbed onto the contraption while kids couldn’t wait to see how high they could go. I took a video for a middle-aged couple who were swinging together and laughing while trying to hold onto one another. This simple act of swinging through the air gave the entire place a feeling of merriment and glee…something we could all use after the devastation and tragedies that have occurred over the last few months.

As I maneuvered myself onto the swing (something that feels foreign at the age of 30-something) and flung myself through the air, I was surprised to find that my legs automatically pushed outward, trying to gain the most momentum before ultimately being swayed backward. I eagerly watched as the slight movements I made affected the curtain in front of me. The far right corner was mine for the taking. Just for a second, I felt like a 5 year-old composer, making music with my swing.

This was the view I got when I tilted my head back (notice all the threads!)

My view from the swing (notice all the threads!)

The other aspects of the installation were equally as interesting. One main area housed caged pigeons on a table with two scrolls of paper on either end (there’s also a man in a fur cape writing something in front of a revolving mirror). People were encouraged to read the scrolls of paper and speak into an old microphone. It was hard to hear what they were saying. As I made my way out, I noticed these small bags randomly placed throughout the room.  Each one appeared to be making some sort of intermittent noise:

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I picked one of them up and heard murmuring coming from inside. It wasn’t until I took a second look at the table (where the people were reading the scrolls of paper) that I realized it was their voices I was hearing from inside the bag. They were reading what was on the scroll. Somehow it was all connected.

Ann Hamilton’s creation was well worth the two-hour wait in the freezing cold. It felt like she was the puppet master and we were all there to play.

*Note to self: SWING ON SWINGS MORE OFTEN

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