Ann Hamilton’s collection of video, paper and sculpture at Portland’s Elizabeth Leach Gallery fits neatly into its space, but she may be best known for her large-scale installations — one recent project in New York occupied a space the size of a city block.
Hamilton works across a variety of media: installations, video, sculpture, fiber and performance. Her work has represented the U.S. at the Venice Biennale, garnered a MacArthur grant and Pulitzer awards, and been exhibited at major museums like MOMA and LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art.
Whether she’s covering exhibit halls with thousands of sheets of paper, building meditation boats in Laos, or slicing up books and reassembling them as outsized collar-like constructions of text, Hamilton enjoys exploring the written word, sense of place, and how those elements can affect the way people relate to each other.
“Elizabeth Leach and I started a conversation looking at some of the artifacts that came out of a project I did at the Guggenheim,” Hamilton told State of Wonder’s April Baer. That exhibition, The Third Mind, addressed text, translation and transmission of ideas.
“What I did,” she says, “was begin the process of guillotining or chopping up numerous books and reassembling them. There’s no accounting for that line that might fall out and be the very thing that distills a thought or a theory.”
Hamilton confesses to loving over-sized spaces. She says she finds they create a dual sense of both solitude and intimacy with others.
In one of her larger installations, the 2012 Park Avenue Armory project in New York, Hamilton filled a colossal space with billowing white curtains and more than 40 swings intended for attendees to use. Staged scenes around the space included assistant performers reading to caged pigeons. The audience was provided with specially printed newspapers that took the place of the traditional print catalog that accompanies major works and exhibitions.
“The immersiveness is also about paying attention to all your senses,” she adds, “as you move through a material environment — maybe slowing you down enough that you trust the landscape of all those things and how they intersect and come together.”
Hamilton’s exhibition at the Elizabeth Leach Gallery is on view through January 11, 2014.
To hear the full interview with Ann Hamilton, click on the audio link at the top of this article. State of Wonder airs Saturdays at noon on OPB Radio.