In the Spring of 1995, I was one of the performers who activated Ann Hamilton‘s installation, volumen. volumen was part of the exhibition About Place – Recent Art of the Americas at the Art Institute of Chicago. The contemporary art in “About Place” focused on the work of sixteen artists from Canada, Latin America, and the United States for whom the concept of “place” (cultural, social, geographic, or political) was of paramount importance.
From the gallery guide:
Ann Hamilton was born in Lima, Ohio, and now lives and works in the state capital of Columbus. Her work is imbued with the philosophy of the American heartland – its work ethic, its commitment to physical labor, its conviction of a symbiotic relationship between nature and culture. Each of Hamilton’s site-specific installations is to a degree a meditation on the interaction between human beings and nature as it has been played out in the midwestern landscape. Her works metaphorically elaborate on this intimate, reciprocal, and often ambivalent connection between city and country.
For volumen, Hamilton has selected the loggia in the museum’s Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Building, a gallery lined with tall windows offering a view of the Illinois Central train tracks and the city skyline beyond. A floor-to-ceiling rotating curtain turns this space into a gigantic enclosure into which we are invited and surrounded. The viewer is encouraged to explore the elliptical curtain space and to view the surroundings beyond, which were visible only through the single aperture in the curtain that constantly rotates, and that doubles as the installation’s sole entrance and exit. In this way Hamilton focused our attention on the details of the environment that the aperture offers at any one moment. We experience this installation not only through sight, but also through the sound of the curtain as it dragd on the floor; the muffling effect it creates; and the associations, thoughts, and memories that were unique to each viewer and arae invariably triggered by this strange environment.