Born Lima, OH, 1956. Lives Columbus, OH
(the capacity of absorption), 1988/96
Copper pipes, glasses, magnets, motors, electronic controller, water, microphone
Collection Miami Art Museum, gift of Mimi Floback
Credit line: Reproduced with the permission of the artist
Photo credit: Sid Hoeltzell
Ann Hamilton creates full-scale environments that immerse viewers in the tangible (pennies, teeth, honey, flowers, and candles) and the intangible (sound, aroma, language, memory, light, and time). Typically, the relics left over from these temporary works are later reconfigured into permanent sculptures. The resulting objects reflect Hamilton's sensitivity to materials while capturing her poetic take on the ephemeral.
(the capacity of absorption) was one of several parts comprising Hamilton's first solo museum installation at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 1988. In 1996, the artist reconfigured this element into a sculptural installation divided into three editions. From a distance, the thirty drinking glasses arranged on shelves and copper pipes protruding from the wall resemble notes on a sheet of music. The humming noise is the sound of water whirling in a circular motion inside each glass in small vortexes. The vortexes are created by a magnet in each glass spinning in reaction to another magnet within the shelf that is activated by a motor. When visitors speak into the vintage telephone receiver mounted on a nearby wall, the magnets slow, the water stills, and the humming sound diminishes. The louder and slower that one speaks, the quieter and more still the vortexes become, until there is silence. Thus it is the literal participation of visitors themselves that constitutes the work's most dynamic aspect.