BY JESSICA CARMINE
Ann Hamilton creates art as event. Her exhibitions are both thought provoking and visually striking. This September saw her grandly unveil her latest exhibition `Habitus’ at Philadelphia’s Municipal Pier 9. Row upon row of monumental, billowing, fabric cylinders create a sight to behold. This installation forms only one part of this ambitious project which spans three sites; Pier 9, The Fabric Workshop and Museum, and social media. In `Habitus’, Hamilton has created a participatory project that is both accessible to and engaging for audiences of all ages and backgrounds.
Walking amongst the fabric creations, it is easy to become immersed. The fabric itself is Tyvek, a synthetic material used in the construction industry. Its primary function is to act as a protective wrap for buildings whilst they are being constructed. It is a material that is not routinely encountered or valued in everyday life. Hamilton, with the assistance of the staff from the Fabric Workshop and Museum, transforms this functional material into something captivating for an audience. Through interactive pulleys and the sheer enormity of the forms themselves, she creates a spectacle that is both impressive and enjoyable.
Whilst visiting the exhibition you can watch as fellow audience members, both adults and children, interact with the installation, walking and running, gazing and discussing the artwork amongst themselves. One couple commented that they had happened across the installation by chance but had stayed to walk through the fabric as they had never experienced this kind of larges installation before.
Hamilton is well known for producing unusual art exhibitions. A visual artist, she creates large scale, multi media events which draw people in and captivate them, whether they are art lovers or not. Throughout the years her exhibitions have gained attention from a wider than average audience. In 2012 she presented `The Event of a Thread’ in New York’s Wade Thompson Drill Hall. The work included large swings on which visitors could play. Visitors enjoyed both watching and using the swings, interacting with the exhibition and with each other. This participation and interaction made the exhibition an experience of art, rather than a static piece.
In addition to the physical elements of Hamilton’s project there is also the social media aspect. The website attached to the project, `Cloth – a Commonplace’ includes both further information about the `Habitus’ project and a collection of related poems, quotes, passages and prose submitted by members of the public following a call out for submissions. Whilst it is not necessary to be familiar with this aspect of `habitus’ to enjoy the ephemeral quality of the exhibition at Municipal Pier 9, it does add further context to an interesting project.
The `Habitus’ exhibition at Municipal Pier 9 concluded on 10th October, but continues until January 8th 2017 at the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia. If you are interested in exploring art in a new way, this exhibition is a great way to begin your journey.