The Park Avenue Armory is once again home to an installation that is appealing to adults and children alike. Ann Hamilton’s the event of a thread is playful, elegant, and a bit mysterious. Filled with 42 swings suspended from the ceiling of the cavernous Wade Thompson Drill Hall, the installation allows viewers to remember how gleeful it feels to swoop through the air.
Hanging from the middle of the hall is a billowing silk curtain. Upon closer examination you can see that the curtain’s breeziness depends on whether people are using the wooden swings on each side of the curtain. Each swing is tied to the pulley system that controls the curtain’s movement, so that each swinger can actually trace the lines of his or her swing to a specific part of the curtain.
Swinging, alone or in pairs, is definitely worth the wait. But there are plenty of other components of the installation to enjoy, too. Some suggestions: lay on the floor below the curtain and become mesmerized by the intersecting chains and ropes of the curtain and swings; pick up one of the 42 radios (wrapped in paper bags) scattered around the space and hold it to your ear; watch two women – actors from SITI Company – reciting excerpts of text that is broadcast on the radios; marvel at the flock of pigeons, and maybe worry whether they feel cooped up in their tiny cages; head upstairs to the balcony to take in the view from above.
The mystery of the event of a thread lays in piecing together its various parts – something that may or may not be important to the viewer. Children looked delighted to stay on the swings, begging their parents to push them higher. Older viewers looked puzzled as they listened to the text recited by the women and heard through the radios. Others had their phones at the ready to Instagram their swinging companions. On benches at the sides of the drill hall, or laying beneath the curtain, plenty of people closed their eyes and dozed.
The exhibit is open through January 6th. I recommend going near the end of the day. Twenty minutes before closing, you can hear a song performed live from the highest balcony in the drill hall, and watch the pigeons released from their cages to fly “home” to a larger cage suspended from the ceiling.