An Errant Line and Relational Spaces
The Spencer Museum of Art’s Central Court has a notable history of being not only a constantly changing artistic space, but a social space too. With each new installation, different interactions and conversations are prompted. Two years ago, when the SMA opened Dan Perjovschi’s installation, I remember the collective mood that was created and contained within that room. As people moved through the space, assessing Perjovschi’s signature black and white cartoon-like drawings, the space was filled with the sounds of visitors joking, laughing, and nodding together as they surveyed the playfully satirical commentaries lining the walls.
On the evening of An Errant Line’s grand opening, the space of the Spencer Central Court yet again became a social space, but it was transformed into something quite different from Dan Perjovschi’s show. For one, there was a new sensory experience to process and internalize. In addition to receiving the overwhelming visual input of the presepio prints that Ann Hamilton had stretched from floor to ceiling, the room swelled with the soft sounds emitted by Liszt’s piano (played by a performer obscured from view). The addition of music made me pay more attention to the ambient noise and chatter of the crowd. The adjoining room, with Cynthia Schira’s vertical screens, made for another sensory and bodily encounter: as people maneuvered around these new additions, they became more aware of one another’s physical presence, as well as their own. But for all the interactivity and excitement, the space was filled with a prominently meditative tone. Visitors to An Errant Line were absorbed, maybe transported; they were there but not there. The event was a social encounter, albeit a remarkably isolated and internalized one.
In an interview, Ann Hamilton once pondered, “Can the individual subjective experience that I am having be a social and shared one?” With the installations she and Schira made for Spencer, this question seems to have been answered in the affirmative.
Samantha Lyons is pursuing a Ph.D. in contemporary art at the University of Kansas.
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