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Ann Hamiltoncorpus

  • Exhibition

  • December 13, 2003 - October 17, 2004
  • Building 5

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Corpus was a new work commissioned from Ann Hamilton, one of the world’s great installation artists, for MASS MoCA’s most dramatic space. Rather than fill the football field-sized space with objects as Robert Rauschenberg, Tim Hawkinson, and Robert Wilson did in previous installations, Hamilton animated the volume of the space with sound, light, and millions of sheets of paper that fell from the ceiling over the course of the ten-month installation.

Hamilton engaged the space by introducing three elements into the main gallery. First, in the rafters high above the gallery floor, she placed 40 pneumatic mechanisms that lifted and released single sheets of translucent onionskin paper. The machines moved at the pace of breathing, inhaling to pick up the paper from a stack, exhaling to drop it.

Second, 24 horn-shaped speakers slowly descended from—and ascended to—the rafters to meet the paper on the floor. One voice was present in each of the downward-facing speakers, and the 24 voices often spoke in unison. As the speakers lowered, they formed a central aisle that disappeared as they moved upward.

Finally, every pane of glass in the gallery’s several hundred windows was covered with red or magenta silk organza. The light filtering through these windows provided the only illumination in the space, suffusing it in color. The combination of the light filtering through the windows, the implied aisle in the long nave-like gallery, and the voices speaking together suggested the intense, almost otherworldly experience of being in a great cathedral.

corpus, 2003
40 ceiling-mounted paper-drop mechanisms consisting of a computer-controlled, pneumatically moved vacuum paper lift actuator, compressor, paper; recorded sound; amplifiers; 24 bell-shaped speakers; spinning speaker mechanism; silk covered windows; light
Photo by Thibault

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