Ann Hamilton: When you stand and you present yourself, in some ways you offer yourself up for this to be recorded. It registers that vulnerability we all have, when we offer ourselves up in that way. I do ask people to turn 360 degrees behind the material, probably just to be in motion and to feel that space. These beautiful things happens where your sleeve touches the material, your hand goes back and I’m interested in what’s revealed in that, because we all have this way we carry ourselves, and I always felt that every moment is really dignified, every moment is really very beautiful when you allow yourself to be vulnerable and to be exposed. It’s maybe about allowing that inside yourself.
This project actually started couple of years ago when I was partnered with Bayer Material Sciences and it was a project called Factory Direct, through the Warhol Museum. I was given this material called Duraflex, which is like a rubber plastic rendering, it’s actually used to hold large volumes of water under pressure, or of a corrosive material. So, it had a very different industrial application.
Tactility has been at the center of my work, and relationship between the visceral, tactile experience and other forms of cognition. But also it was really interesting to me that process at bayer is one of compounding in chemistry. You don’t really see the material result of it except when it’s in the surface of a phone or the surface of a fabric and how it’s in this performance, but it’s not a thing you can see or hold. I wanted to partner then with another, much more “in your hand” tactile business, which is the newspaper. For that project we ended up taking photographs of the researchers of Bayer, the people who worked at the newspaper, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, and we worked with this membrane-like material. We were photographing the tool that they worked with in each of their various professions.
During the process of that I started taking more portrait-like pictures. It became interesting to me immediately how when you stand behind it you can hear but you can’t see. This creates a particular circumstance, because you are not presenting yourself for the camera, you are actually standing behind this material, and it’s like you are inside yourself in a different way. And although you can hear a voice, you can here being directed, there seems to emerge from this process something that’s maybe more vulnerable, something that feels like bring fully [a] presence of a person in a very different way.
I really wanted to bring that process here and actually see if we could set up a stricture where you could bring that experience, you could actually make the work here. So these are works that we have done at the residency in January at the MIA, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, where I worked with volunteers and docents and some of these are also friends from the studio, and family. There is an element of trust. I’m trusting you to sort of look funny in some way. I think it’s really not so much about taking a picture of someone, as it is but maybe capturing some quality of that experience in that time, that exchange of being hidden and being revealed at the same time. All my early work comes out of textiles and thinking about the membrane of cloth, something that both covers and something that reveals.
Born in Lima, Ohio, in 1956, Ann Hamilton received a BFA in textile design from the University of Kansas in 1979 and an MFA in sculpture from the Yale School of Art in 1985. From 1985 to 1991, she taught on the faculty of the University of California at Santa Barbara. Hamilton has served on the faculty of The Ohio State University since 2001, where she is a Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Art.
* Park Avenue Armory program description.
Images provided courtesy of Ann Hamilton Studio and used with permission. For more information on the specific images featured in the interview please contact press@galleryIntell