Writing In Solitude Amid The Crowds

Writing In Solitude Amid The Crowds

Ann Hamilton’s large-scale installation at the Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan, “The Event of a Thread,” is on view through January 6th. Readings, music, sound and live events are part of the piece, and visitors can try the 42 swings suspended from above. Some have seen Hamilton’s work as a statement about the passage of time and the threads that connect all of us. Rena Chelouche Fogel, who has been playing the role of the Solitary Writer, reflects on being part of the installation –Editor

Every time I walk into the Drill Hall at the Armory, I am struck by the sight of 42 swings affecting the movements of a glorious white undulating curtain that spans the width of the hall.

Soon the sounds of two readers quietly enter my hearing, as do the gleeful reverberations of men, women and children who are swinging. Before I take my place at the writing table at the other end of hall, I want to swing. The movements inhabit my body and even though I have not swung for fifty years, I know exactly what to do. The movements calm me, thrill me, enthrall me and whereas as a child I could not see the effect of the air moving around me, now my eyes are drawn towards the curves and sways of the curtain before me. My actions have an affect in this world of Ann Hamilton’s “The Event of a Thread. “

But I have to tear myself away. My role is to write. Backstage I don a beautiful denim coat. A writer’s coat. It anchors me to the present moment. It separates me from those who visit the installation. It links me to the past. Today my prompt is to write a letter to “Dear Far.” I take some paper, a pencil, a glass of water. From the far dark corner I step into the Drill Hall. I feel as though I am entering a sacred space. How I enter, how I approach the ritual changeover with the writer who sits at the desk, how I have prepared myself, all will affect the attitude, the energy of my writing.

I approach the desk and when I am ready to take over, I place the glass of water on the desk. The seated writer stands, turns around. I, in turn, sit on the stool. He removes a gorgeous wool cloak from his shoulders and places it gently around mine. I wear the mantle now. The responsibility and pleasure to write is now mine. He leaves me alone.

I sit and arrange my papers. I sharpen my pencil to my left letting the curls of wood fall to the floor. Many thoughts have needed to have a sharp point in order to be realized on the paper. I see words. A spotlight illuminates my page. I begin “Dear Far. My hands are empty. My fingers hold nothing. I sense your warm skin. Your cold skin…”

Sometimes I connect eyes with people who come to the table to see what I am writing. Sometimes I just perceive movements in the shadows. Sometimes I look at the concave mirror above me and watch the reflection of what is happening behind me in the hall. Seven pages later, two and a half hours later, my spotlight goes down. I let in the sounds of a singer, of pigeons cooing softly, of footsteps receding from the hall and I gather my papers, my carbons, my empty glass and I head to the door in the dark corner.

I am exhausted. But mostly I marvel at the journey to “Far” and how much I had to tell. Ann Hamilton will give me my next prompt, as I am about to walk into my next writing session at the table. I am scared. I am looking forward to it.


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