Ann Hamilton: the common S E N S E Come gain a new understanding of touch through our newest exhibition! We invite you to become part of this exhibition through the role as a reader/scribe. Through participation, you will add a sociable presence to the galleries through reading out loud to the artifacts. If interested, sign up here.
This blog post was written by Ryan Calo, an Assistant UW Law Professor with expertise in cyber law and privacy.
If you ask an adult about NSA leaker Edward Snowden, you are just as likely to hear him characterized as a traitor as you are a hero. Generations previous to this one have the benefit of context in making this assessment. Baby Boomers in particular came of age amidst Watergate or the Pentagon Papers. My generation did not – though many of us were made aware of these events by our parents and other sources. We were in our twenties on September 11, 2001, some of us standing so close to the towers that we felt the heat of the second explosion on our faces.
Today’s teenagers were babies when those planes struck. They have grown up in a world of color-coded terror warnings. They have never boarded a plane without taking off their belts, never known a time when the United States did not indefinitely detain suspects. Simultaneously, and while “it’s complicated,” today’s teenagers might be hard-pressed to decide between forgoing food and forgoing Instagram in any given twenty-four-hour period.
So how would kids go about answering the question of whether Snowden is a traitor or a hero? Where can they gain the context to weigh concepts such as privacy and national security? Could you even find a teenager capable of articulating when it may be appropriate to defy authority in order to preserve liberty?
The answer is: you can find thousands. Because thousands of kids read the work of Cory Doctorow. Thousands of kids can quote to you Little Brother or Homeland by heart. Thousands of American children can see a trace of themselves in Snowden. I submit that whatever you think of Snowden and what he did, the protagonists and settings of Doctorow’s award-winning books equip young adults and others to think critically about civil liberty in this dangerous digital age.
If you know Doctorow’s work, chances are you will be excited to hear him speak at the University of Washington this coming Saturday, October 25. I encourage you to come even if you haven’t read his work yet. This is a rare chance to engage a leading public intellectual on among the most salient issues of our age, one whose audience includes the future of our republic. What will you ask?
Ann Hamilton: the common SENSE The artist writes, “To touch is always to be touched in return.” Ann Hamilton illustrates how touch is not only mere physical contact–when we touch anything, it also touches us back, leaving an imprint. Performances through singing and reading will animate your experience as you wander through the galleries. Participation is encouraged–add your own image to the portraits of visitors along our wall and take home a newsprint image of an animal to remind you of your experience of the common SENSE.
Call for Reader/Scribes As you peruse Hamilton’s works, you will notice individuals reading aloud throughout the exhibition. Reader/scribes are volunteers who read from a specially chosen book and transcribe the text into a project log. The reader/scribe becomes the conduit for a physical record of the collective activity. If you are interested in participating in the common SENSE as a reader/scribe, sign up here.
This lecture is a preview to Surveillance & Privacy: Art, Law, and Social Practice, a multi-day seminar held November 20-22, discussing issues relating to privacy and surveillance. In a lecture titled, “Alice, Bob and Clapper: What Snowden taught us about privacy,” author and activist Cory Doctorow will address issues on social activism, copyright, surveillance, and privacy.
This week’s blog post was written by Suria Markus, who has been interning this summer at the Henry.
As the Henry prepares for the opening of Ann Hamilton: the common S E N S E, I made a trip to the Seattle Public Library’s Central Library to experience the artist’s permanent installation on the first floor in the Literacy, English as a Second Language, and World Languages Collection. I stood upon 556 maple floorboards laid down to create a 7,600-square-foot walkable surface. Routed in relief on each board are sentences in different languages made up of letters in reverse, evoking wooden typeset. The content was collected by library patrons and staff, who Hamilton invited to gather first sentences of books in SPL’s collection. The resulting 1,543 sentences represent eleven languages which, during the making of the project, were the most frequently used languages in the LEW Collection: Arabic, Chinese, English, German, French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
Hamilton’s website notes that the LEW wood floor (2004) “seeks to mark this moment of technological transition by imbedding in the membrane of the library’s surface work that in texture and form remembers and evokes a tactile experience of book production and reading.”
Feeling the raised floorboards under my toes, I was most drawn to the dynamic between the individual planks and the continuous field of the floor—an assembly of different languages. I was surrounded by indecipherable words and letterforms that I could not identify. This was a moment of dislocation and humility, an opportunity for me to recognize a world of distinct cultures beyond my own experience. Through this installation, Hamilton offered me an opportunity to encounter my edges, and consider my place in relation to a larger global fabric.
The centrality of language in the LEW wood floor conjured summer 2010 when I attended an accelerated German language program at the University of Washington. I had recently acquired a German passport, officially becoming a dual citizen, and felt overwhelmed by the importance of learning the language of my heritage. On my first day of German class, looking through my textbook, I saw familiar (and a few unfamiliar) letters patterned in ways in which I could not assign meaning—not unlike my experience trying to interpret the floorboards in Hamilton’s installation. As I became more comfortable reading, writing, and speaking German, I gained an increasing appreciation for its linguistic and cultural nuances. Similarly, the longer I spent in the LEW Collection, the more I understood Hamilton’s installation as a site to consider the divides of cultural difference and interconnection.
“Just as a book connects the near at hand to the far away. Touch transverses our interior and exterior worlds.” — Ann Hamilton
What are you reading? Check out our new Tumblr site Readers Reading Readers — created just for this exhibition — and submit a excerpt that describes an exchange of touch. The exhibition title the common S E N S E references Aristotle’s proposition in Historia Animalium and De Anima that “touch” is the sense common to all animal species.
What should you submit? It’s up to you — a paragraph from a book, a few sentences from the newspaper, an excerpt from a letter, a magazine fragment…. Throughout the duration of the exhibition, the submissions will be printed and placed around the galleries. Visitors will be able to assemble the fragments into individualized commonplace books (a commonplace book is a tool for collecting and organizing excerpts from books and other written works into one document for easy access to ideas or arguments for a variety of situations).
Stay tuned for information about becoming a reader/scribe.
Reader/scribes will read out loud in the Henry galleries as they transcribe texts from the exhibition’s changing books. Over the course of the exhibition, the books will fill with each reader/scribes’ contribution, bringing the individual into a chorus.
We are currently closed for installation! We are so excited to be working with internationally renowned artist Ann Hamilton for her building-wide exhibition the common S E N S E, opening October 11th.
Hamilton’s last exhibition at the Henry was in 1992, entitled accountings. Get ready for this highly anticipated, large-scale show; it will be a big one!
In the meantime, here are a few things happening in Seattle right now/coming up that are worth checking out!
@ SAM City Dwellers: Contemporary Art from India, on view August 30, 2014 – February 15, 2015 City Dwellers features works from a few of India’s leading artists, who are influenced by religious traditions, popular movie culture, and digital technology.
#SocialMedium, on view September 27, 2014 – January 4, 2015
Crowd-curated exhibition in which, by the use of social media, works from the Founding Collection were chosen by 4,000 people from around the globe. We can’t wait to see what’s been chosen!
Join us for a listening party with Stephen Vitiello and Steve Peters this Saturday, September 6th from 2 – 4 PM.
With Hidden Noise is curated by Vitiello, and features his work along with Peters and six other artists, who use sound as a material in distinctive ways. The listening event will be followed by refreshments and conversation with Peters and Vitiello in the Henry’s sculpture court. The post-party refreshment hour is at capacity, so we hope you RSVPed!
As summer comes to a close (what? how?) as do our summer exhibitions. Sunday, September 7th is the last day to check out the works of:
The Henry will be closed from September 15th – October 10th to install the upcoming show Ann Hamilton: the common S E N S E. Join us on October 11 to celebrate the exciting opening of this museum-wide exhibition!
During this closure, please note that everyone’s favorite cafe — Molly’s — will also be closed as of September 8th. You can look forward to a refreshed café space when Molly’s reopens October 14th.