It's exhilarating, because even if you aren't much into audience participation (ahem), you'll probably be giddy with delight (double ahem) when you sit on one of the 42 broad wooden swings and begin to sail back and forth. The sheer joy of this simple action recalls all that is good about being a kid. The swings are suspended from the rafters by 75' chains, which are loosely tethered together near the top and attached to a vast silky cloth that divides the Drill Hall in half, Christo style. The "membrane" billows and shimmers in reaction to, as Hamilton so poetically put it, "the weather" of the installation.
If you're on a swing, your flight trajectory neatly illuminated by a rectangle, by now you've passed two "readers" (members of SITI Company) who sit at a table stacked with 42 homing pigeons in cages. They read text that follows the graphic structure of a concordance, which essentially organizes variously sourced phrases by common words which align in "spines." This concept of the weaving of fabric permeates the installation; it is found here in the spoken text, which is transmitted to radios in neatly-wrapped paper bags that are scattered throughout the hall and are meant to be carried and passed along to others while feeling the breath—the vibration of the noise—of the speaker. You with me?
On the Lexington end of the hall sits a "writer," who writes with a pencil on a carbonized form in response to the read text and the goings-on in the hall. Nearby is a record lathe which will record a daily song sung by a soloist and chorus, from a balcony, to the fat homing pigeons, which are traditionally used as a means of communication. Recurring instances of action and documentation form a sort of metaphorical dialogue, or weaving, of the duration of the performance and installation. The desk set-ups are reminiscent of previous Hamilton scenarios—repetitive labor and language are trademarks—but the sheer visceral and emotional impact of the large-scale dramas are nothing short of thrilling.
Clearly there are infinite ideas in Hamilton's work, which reaffirms the power and potential of art, but there is also nothing quite like the simple thrill of sailing through the air on a swing. It's on view through January 6 (and free this Saturday, December 8).