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human carriage | 2009

Commissioned for "The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia: 1860-1989"
Alexandra Munroe, Curator
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
January 30-April 19, 2009

Ann Hamilton - human carriage

Materials: cloth, wire, bells, books, string, pipe, pulleys, pages, cable, gravity, air, sound


human carriage rimmed the Guggenheim's parapet walls with a slender pipe to create a pathway, from the upper end of the museum's ramp to the entrance below, for the descent of a wheeled carriage that housed two suspended Tibetan cymbal bells. Ringing intermittently the sound of the bells was both everywhere and nowhere within the spiral of the Frank Lloyd Wright rotunda.


Ann Hamilton - human carriageThe slender pipe pathway of human carriage rimmed the Guggenheim's rotunda walls


Ann Hamilton · human carriageLeft: stacks of book weights awaiting their descent. Right: attendant launching the carriage from the topmost point.




As the bell carriage reached it terminus and came to rest at the bottom of the rotunda, it triggered the drop of a bundle of reconstructed books acting as conceptual counterweights in a system exchanging weight for weightlessness, and sound for the silence of reading. Like the many individual and disparate readers of a book the descent of the bell and the fall of the books was variable and responsive to the moment of each particular pull of gravity.



Ann Hamilton · human carriageA carriage completing its run, depositing book weights on the bottom level of the rotunda


Following the curatorial theme of the exhibition, Hamilton responded to the forms by which cultural knowledge is transmitted and travels as influence through another cultural context. There is no real tracing of or accounting for the routes of translation and circulation these texts take, for the ways in which they are read or misread as they pass from reader to reader. The decision to use books reconstituted from sliced cross-sections of multiple volumes made physical alignments between disparate books and meanings. These meetings or alignments of texts became a demonstration of what happens when one line of writing rubs up in arbitrary juxtaposition to another. The story of transmission is in part an accounting of these arbitrary meetings, their amplifications and influences.


Ann Hamilton - human carriage


Photo credit: Thibault Jeanson / Dyanna Taylor / Ann Hamilton

Curator: Alexandra Munroe
Assistant Curator: Sandhini Poddar
Engineering: Marty Chafkin, Perfection Electricks
Guggenheim Installation Team: Peter Read, Christopher George and Ashley Stevenson
Exhibition Designer: Jaime Roark
Book Donors: Kenyon College Press, Half Price Books, Areopagitica Book Store, Patrick and Robert Boyle, Karen Wickliff
Attendants: Audra Wolowiec, Shanti Grumbine, Heather Willems

For a complete list of all those who made human carriage possible, click here.

page break Related Readings:
· " 'The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia: 1860-1989' at the Guggenheim." Los Angeles Times (February 1, 2009).
· Lawrence, Lee. "A Look at American Artists Wrestling with Asian Ideas." The Wall Street Journal. (February 24, 2009): D7.
· Haber, John. "The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia." http://www.haberarts.com/3rdmind.htm
· "A Live Performance, Ann Hamilton's Human Carriage." Interior (April 2009, #189): 150-153.


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