The Event of a Thread
of an Exhibition
Published on December 31, 2012
Museum: Park Avenue Armory
Visit Date: December, 2012
When I entered the great hall of the Park Avenue Armory where Ann Hamilton’s The Event of a Thread is located with my father and stepmother, I immediately noticed the contemplative yet playful multifaceted environment the installation engendered. The massive hall was full of stimulated visitors engaging with the installation in a variety of ways, and from multiple vantage points.
The installation consisted of a large-scale, white silk curtain dividing the center of the magnificent hall into two sections. Each section contained many large wooden swings, which were attached to the top of the giant silk curtain through a series of pulley systems, thus allowing visitors to control the curtain’s ebb and flow through their movement on the swings. The result was the peaceful rustling of the silk curtain resembling an indoor and more animated version of Christo and Jean-Claude’s Valley Curtain (1972). Two performers sat on either side of the curtain at tables wearing large wool coats. On one side a performer was reading philosophical texts into a microphone, his face hidden by stacked cages full of live pigeons on the table in front of him. His voice echoed through radios placed in brown paper bags scattered throughout the hall. His words filled the hall with a low hum, which I could not decipher until I picked up one of the bags and placed it next to my ear. On the other side of the hall a woman was silently writing her thoughts about the installation into a large book.
The installation was designed to be experienced on multiple levels, both individually and with others. My visit offered both of these experiences. Individually, I picked up the paper bags to listen to the broadcast, and laid on the floor under the curtain watching it billow above me filling me with the awe of its beauty. As a group my father, stepmother, and I took turns on the swing laughing as we struggled to stay on it and just enjoying the simple pleasure of doing something fun together. People all around us were having a similar experience as they connected with one another through the installation while enjoying the aesthetic beauty it possessed. Even the adult visitors – regardless of their age – were engaging in the installation with the same level of excitement and enthusiasm as the children around them. When I asked my father and stepmother if they wanted to go on the balcony they were shocked that it was open to visitors. The balcony provided the perfect vantage point for me to consider the complex interpretations this simple yet powerful moving installation evoked, including interconnectivity, communication, nature, architecture, the human condition, and many others I have yet to contemplate.
The freedom to access all areas of the hall and participate with the installation without directional wall text empowered me as a visitor. I felt comfortable to play, discover, and reflect on my own. The overall experience was energetic and fanciful, while at the same time calm and meditative.
Upon exiting the hall I was directed to a display with take away informational newspapers that included the artist statement, pictures, information on the texts broadcasted, and all other aspects of the installation including the pigeons. As I was collecting my newspaper, an eighty-year-old woman told me she was going to return with her grandchildren. All around me I overheard similar conversations not only recommending the exhibition to others, but also wanting to return a second time to experience The Event of a Thread again.