The Armory itself, a stunning site. The exhibition is in a room that is 55,000 sq feet. The room recalls a 19th century European train station, or an upside down ship. Towards the ceiling are square windows all in a row. I am not sure if a description of the exhibition hall is valuable to you, but I think so that you can imagine it, it is still worth mentioning. The floors are made of old wooden floorboards, many of which are separating.
In the middle of the room is a white piece of fabric that spans and divides the room into two equal sections. It looks shinny, silky. The fabric is always a few feet off the floor; sometimes two, sometimes five. The fabric is attached at the top to ropes. There is one rope approximately every 3 ft of fabric. The ropes are attached twice on either side of the fabric. They are attached to pulleys on the ceiling, and they are attached to swings. At the end of the rope on either side of the room the rope is weighed down by a bell.
The swings. There are four swings in a row, and four rows of swings on both sides of the white fabric. You, the audience, is invited to swing on any available swing. All the swings are taken, many people are here. The swing is apx 2.5 ft long and made of perhaps birch wood, the edges of which have been routed off to make them smooth, rounded. The swings are connected to the ceiling by iron chains. Remember, the rope that is attached to the fabric is also attached to the swings. The white curtain is apx 100ft long. When you swing, the curtain at its many points of contact moves up and down, back and forth. Again all of the swings are taken, so many people are involved in the constant movement of the fabric. It looks like a mountain of ghosts reaching out to be freed. Ripples and waves run through and down. It looks alive. One is able to swing very high. Everyone is smiling. So here is the experience from where I am not sitting:
- The fabric is alive, moving with you.
- The ropes and chains that connect everything make a complex visual field of lines. It is like a trapeese at the circus if there were 100 trapase artists all at once. Something out of circ du soleil.
- The swinging. Trying to cross the room to a free swing is a puzzle, as someone may well kick you in the head. Everyone races towards the free swing, a competition and a game of waiting. And it is worth it, the swinging is very joyful. The room is dimly lit. It is peaceful. I go once by my self, and once with a group of friends. Both times it is satisfying in different ways. I am happy to be there alone, to keep the experience to myself, somewhat ceremonial. I am happy to be there next to another, to have a shared experience that is somewhat silly. This is not important to write you maybe, but it is.
- The music from the different bells (again, they are attached to the ends of the ropes that are connected to the swings and the fabric). Watching the bells bob up and down as they play gentle sounds. This sound helps to make the space feel alive.
- On the one side of the room, before the swings, there are pigeons in a crate on a table. There are 17 pigeon crates, made of wood, stacked on top of each other. On the table is also two long scrolls of paper with writing on it. Two women sit at the table. They look like actresses. They face the swings, and the fabric. They are wearing fur coats and funny old hats. One actress has a glass of water. They look divorced from the rest of the piece but I know they are somehow very important.
- On the other side of the room, beyond the swings, there is a table with a big mirror that is circular and supported by rods. One woman sits at the table in a fur coat. She is wearing the same outfit as the other women. She faces away from the swings and the fabric, towards the street. There is a large square window through which you can see the street, which is park avenue in manhattan. Across the street is the church in which my parents were married, but that is not important to the exhibition, except that it is for me.
- There are brown paper bags on the floor, tied in the shape of a cross with white strong. In the center is a hole. From the hole you can hear a speaker, a woman talking, but it is too noisy at the show to hear what the voice is saying. At all the tables the women in a fur coat is speaking into a microphone that looks like it is from the second world war and reading likely from the scroll. I imagine that this is the voice coming out of the speaker.
- There is an old clock on the wall with roman numerals. The time is now 20 to three. Or, the clock is broken, as i believe it is somewhat later then that. There is a ladder next to a clock. Neither the clock nor the ladder is part of the installation, but permanent fixtures in the room.
- There are rectangular blocks of light on the floor, beneath the swings. Each block of light designated how far the swinger is able to swing. There is a few feet of space in either direction between each block of lights. It is by walking on the parts of the floor that are not lit that you are able to avoid being hit by a swinger.
Of the many people there, there is also a bride and groom taking their wedding photos. This is perhaps not important to you but felt worth mentioning. They both look disinterested, tired. It is really a sad thing to see. They take so many pictures; here, there, swinging, standing. I am tired just looking at them. But i continue to stare.
from Ashley Lamb