Ann Hamilton | The William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library

Ann Hamilton | The William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library
Thursday, January 13

VERSE | Ann Hamilton a public art project

A two-color cork floor laid as a field of words set in relief and located in the Thompson Library Buckeye Reading Room at The Ohio State University.  The text is created by an alphabetic intersection and line-by-line weaving of three different accountings of world history that are arranged in a literary concordance.  The spine along the north–south axis is composed of 299 words in A–Z order and adapted from “The End of the World” – a White River Sioux story.  The east west lines of text intersect this story with prose fragments from A Little History of the World by E. H. Gombrich (1936) and Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone by Eduardo Galeano (2009).

George Acock, Acock Associates Architects
Hans Cogne | Typesetting & Graphic Design
Typeface Gotham by Hoefler & Frere-Jones
Mike Neidig, Color Text Incorporated | Fabrication
Kevin Jones, Jones Commercial Flooring | Installation
Ohio Arts Council, Ohio Percent for Art Program

The renovation and re- opening of the Thompson Library occurs during a time when digital technologies are changing a reader’s relationshipto a page of text, to the book as object, and to the library as an institution and system of access to information and print cul- ture. As libraries take on multiple roles, the housing of book collections shares space with its function as an access location to infinitely expanding digital information and a social site for its com- munity of users. Within this context, Hamilton’s project, a 6080 square foot cork floor in the Buckeye Reading Room is constituted of a field of words whose graphic organization follows the structure of an alphabetic concordance. Unlike indices which locate subject matter, concordances alphabetize the principal words used in a single text within the context of the sentence in which they appear. The alphabetized words run like a spine through the text, allowing the reader to examine the intersections of context and the frequency of their usage. Just as a concordance is an intersection of a key word with a body of text the library is one place where a reader inter- sects with the artifacts of print culture. Verse, in its form and woven organization is a reflection of how the reader intersects with and culls information and meaning from the library’s collection.

Here, Ann Hamilton creates a different kind of concordance, a mesostic of vertical words intersecting a horizontal text. The 299 words of “The End of the World”, adapted from a White River Sioux myth, are alphabetized to form the spine of the composition inlaid on the floor. “The End of the World” tells the story of a world that is kept alive by a process of weaving, relating itself to the library’s life, sustained by its readers and the circulating movement of its books passing from patron to patron. Ann Hamilton, instead of creating a concordance of this story, finds the occur- rences of these 299 words in two other texts which account world histories: A Little History of the World by E. H. Gombrich, originally published in 1936 and Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone by Eduardo Ga- leano published in 2009. The Sioux myth serves as the spine and its words as points of intersection with the two other texts, each reading in different direction. Where no sentences extend from the spine is where the unique essence of the Sioux story resides: the words, “porcupine- quills,” “robe,” “textile,” and ”unravels,” integral to the action that, when re- peated, sustains the life of the world in the myth, are absent in the Gombrich and Galeano accounts of the world. Further, the phrases which are emp- hasized on either side of the spine are the “floating weft,” the visual thread of an unnamed reader for whom another shape – or layer of perception – weaves through the texts. It is the reader, this reader, ultimately, who shapes the world-selecting and accumulating information into knowledge, another process of weaving which cannot help but be full of truths and contradictions, slippages and poetic potential.

Photo credit
Fredrik Marsh