Installation as synecdoche
My research led me to investigate Hamilton’s efforts to explore and create community through her works of installation art. Community refers to a social group or unit that shares common values. The concept of community creation is a major theme in Ann Hamilton’s installation stylus, which opened at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis in 2010. I would suggest that there are systems of communication and community within stylus and that the imitation of these same systems occur within a website created by the Pulitzer to document the work. Hamilton’s goal of producing a new sense community within the Pulitzer building stemmed from her desire to replace the vibrant community that had been lost in earlier years from the surrounding St. Louis neighborhood. The placement of the Pulitzer Foundation building in that derelict neighborhood was itself part of a strategy of urban revitalization, while Hamilton’s installation, within the building, is an effort to collapse that lost community into the museum structure, effectively creating a surrogate for it.
A somewhat parallel strategy can be found in An Errant Line. In figura, the Spencer Museum of Art’s permanent collection has been only partially revealed and its objects are mediated through representations of the presepio figures. The collection has not been revealed in its entirety; rather, one sees only a sampling, which allows one to imagine a much greater whole. In this way, both stylus and figura use a selected part as a synecdoche for the larger concept at hand: in stylus, the sense of community created within the Pulitzer building represents the developing arts community that surrounds it; in figura, the selections displayed in the side-gallery represent the complete permanent collection.
Laura Minton studies art history as a graduate student at the University of Kansas.