Sensing the Process

Joel Coon

During the opening evening of An Errant Line (2013), Cynthia Schira stated her belief that our society is increasingly concerned with product over process. The materials and diffuse elements of her contribution to An Errant Line combat what she notices as a developing cultural trend. For the artist the work presents a process of creating and, and for the viewer it offers a process of experiencing. Likewise, Ann Hamilton seeks to provide a journey rather than a distinct destination. In referring to her works as site-responsive, she desires to bring out the environmental presence of a space rather than obscuring or transforming its identity. With the installation’s variety of fabric and imagery as well as its spatial nature, both artists stress a process of continual discovery instead of a perceptual gestalt moment.
We generally strive for a coherent, organized, and meaningful totality of experience in our life—a striving accommodated primarily by our visual sense. Our sight fosters the creation of hierarchies and comforting classifications of the surrounding environment and our place within it. Looking seems to offer perceptual certainty as a product. In contrast, our sense of hearing is inherently process-based because of sound’s spatiality and temporality. Thus, it is much more difficult to organize our aural experience into a meaningful totality, as it is constantly coming and fleeting. With this primacy of the visual sense in mind, Hamilton offers a sensorial discovery by covering the grand piano in figura. A pink satin garment envelops the instrument and obscures it from the certainty of sight. The shroud frustrates our processing of the piano’s physical appearance and heightens our awareness to its aural nature, which ironically clarifies the piano’s telos: to generate sound. We are forced to stop watching and begin listening. This relationship between fabric and piano contextualizes the instrument as an aural process rather than a visual product, which more broadly reinforces the installation’s purpose as an environmental experience that engages more than just the visual.

Joel Coon graduated from the University of Kansas in 2013 with degrees in art history and anthropology.


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