Each one of us, then, should speak of his roads, his crossroads, his roadside benches; each one of us should make a surveyor's map of his lost fields and meadows. Gaston Bachelard.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

"I can remember the feeling of swinging—how hard we would work for those split seconds, flung at furthest extension, just before the inevitable downward and backward pull, when we felt momentarily free of gravity, a little hiccup of suspension when our hands loosened on the chair and our torsos raised off the seat."

Yesterday, my son and I went to Anne Hamilton's installation, the event of a thread at the Park Avenue Armory. We shed our coats and were immediately greeted by a large white curtain moving in the span of the space.

We walked around the large room's circumference, and if you've never been to the Armory, it's impressive in itself: 150 paces from west to east and 70 paces north to south, with a ceiling over 70 feet high. Anne Hamilton says that "walking gathers space into the body. It is a form of listening." I watched my four-month-old son's eyes get wide and his head whip from side to side as we moved, trying to locate the sources of sound.

Kids ran by, catapulting their bodies toward the gravity of the white curtain, adding their shouts to the soundscape. Teenage boys pushed grandmothers on swings attached by chains to iron pulleys affixed near the roof, with ropes connecting to and determining the movement of the curtain. Couples sat beside each other and swung, putting their arms around each other, leaning back, way back, to look at the roof. A mother sat beside her toddler, holding her hand, swinging slowly and tenderly, testing the toddler's limits of fear. A woman sat alone, going higher, higher, higher.

While waiting for an empty swing, I sat on a bench. My son reached for a paper bag beside us, pulling back his hand as the bag emitted sound. A voice.

The voice of a woman reading to a flock of pigeons from a concordance on the far side of the room.

But now it was our turn to swing. I sat down, tightened the straps on the baby carrier, lifted my feet and drew them back. My son laughed and I pumped higher. Light shone down from the roof and the pigeons made a racket in the corner. I closed my eyes and thought about how I never wanted to stop swinging.

And then we came to an abrupt halt. A little blonde girl had jumped up and grabbed the piece of white cloth attached to our swing. I looked over at the girl. She smiled but didn't let go.

"Words allow us to travel while the tactile keeps us present; a rhythmic exchange of reeling out and pulling in that is also the swing's pendulum." (Hamilton)

I left the swing and walked back to the bench. I picked up the voice in the paper bag and carried it over to the little blonde girl.

"If on a swing, we are alone, we are together in a field. This condition of the social is the event of a thread. Our crossings with its motions, sounds, and textures is its weaving; is a social act." (Hamilton)