‘It Felt Really Wild and Safe at the Same Time’: Watch Artist Ann Hamilton Swing Visitors Through the Air in a Participatory Installation

Dec 24, 2020

In 2012, artist Ann Hamilton took over the Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan with an exhibition titled “the event of a thread,” encompassing the entire drill hall for one month. The title of the show is a nod to Anni Albers, whose description of weaving—”a horizontal and vertical crossing of a thread, which is touch and contact at intersection”—Hamilton makes interactive.

In an exclusive interview with Art21 as part of the Extended Play series, Hamilton describes her adaptation of Albers’s definition: “The cloth is raising and lowering with the swings. Everyone’s presence registers in some way in the materials of it. And that, in turn, makes its weaving.” 

Production still from the Art21 “Extended Play” film, “Ann Hamilton: the event of a thread.” © Art21, Inc. 2013.

The swings, which were suspended in the drill hall against a backdrop of billowing white fabric, were invitations to activate the space, though Hamilton says at first she was worried no one would actually use them. Eventually, though, kids couldn’t resist. “There was a family in here yesterday for three hours,” she says, “so it’s become sort of like a park.”

Watching the visitors interact with the space, Hamilton was surprised to find another intersection of the horizontal and vertical, when she realized that as some people stood beneath the fabric drapes, others laid flat on their backs, staring up at the pulleys and ropes. “There was a girl who said that she felt really, really wild and safe at the same time,” Hamilton shares with Art21. “When I heard that, it’s like, ‘Yes! That is great.'”

Watch the video, which originally appeared as part of Art21’s series Extended Play, below. The brand new 10th season of the show is available now at Art21.org. 

This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between Artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of newsmaking artists. A new series of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship series Art in the Twenty-First Century is available now on PBS. Catch all episodes of other series like New York Close Up and Extended Play and learn about the organization’s educational programs at Art21.org.