The Embodied Art of Ann Hamilton (video)

Friday, January 24, 2014 - 4:58pm
Photo by Getty Images

The Embodied Art of Ann Hamilton (video)

I've never witnessed anything like the conversation Ann Hamilton and Krista Tippett had at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts Thursday night. There was a spark of the infinite in the way she spoke. It took my breath away and made my heart hurt, but just for an instant.

What I felt is a little hard to explain in words, but maybe this will help. Here's a video from one of Anne Hamilton’s exhibits, "The Event of a Thread." The woman shown at the 23-second mark seems to be having this same experience. Did you see it?

I felt it in the live audience too. There’s a sort of wave of recognition, a moment of big, incomprehensible yet familiar beauty that hits you and then releases you.

I was both in the room and outside of it. Enraptured by presence, awakened to the felt sense of being there — then, in that exact moment in time — and at the same time inhabiting this invisible world that seemed to assemble itself out of the emptiness she spoke into. Ann Hamilton had the kind of presence that is so brimming with aliveness that you almost feel like you’ve become a part of one of her living exhibits.

Too often we relegate great art as something to be looked at and left at the museum door. This is a different world. This is art you breathe in. This is embodied art, imagination animated by vitality. You are not just looking, or feeling, or hearing, or speaking; you are all of that and something more — you are its center.

The great gift of Ann Hamilton’s art is the window it gives us into this breath-taking, gut-wrenching world of ordinary life observed by a maker. The people walking within her creations seem to be seeing life for the first time. The life that is so present, but so unnoticed by most of us. The realness, fullness, together/aloneness that is being in the world. It is a glimpse into what the world looks like. The world we could see if our hearts and our eyes were wide open.

It almost felt like she was creating as she was speaking. I’m reminded of a midrash of Genesis. It supposes that creation is not something that happened once and then never again. Creation is ever unfolding. And I guess in this way, like Ann Hamilton said, we are all makers. We all continue the creation with every ordinary extraordinary moment.


Share Post

Shortened URL


Mariah Helgeson

is a digital editor at On Being. She earned a degree in International Affairs with concentrations in the Middle East and Conflict Resolution from George Washington University. She grew up in Minnesota and was a program associate at the Sustained Dialogue Campus Network. When she’s not submerged in a good book she might be found laughing with her teenage sisters or playing chamber music.

Share Your Reflection



I would love to experience this in person. There's something about the way space is created that reminds me of my experience listening to Onbeing. Thanks Krista and Crew! Kristen Balouch

gorgeous spacious flexible presence-----a remembering of literally swinging and singing the infinite. namaste

At the beginning of today's program (Feb 16, 2014) Krista was having trouble with using the term 'spiritual art.' My feeling is these are quite redundant terms--you would use either one or the other but not both at the same time. If it doesn't have an abstract, non-material component, some 'meaning,' then it may be a physical object, something 'made' but it's not 'art.' If it is art then it has by definition, some part of use, meaning that is metaphorical, not literal, a stand-in for something that can not be named, can only be 'embodied' or 'referred to.' Something you, "know it when you see it." (For me, I tend to think of those working in the arts as the ones working with the 'spiritual' aspect of our experience, at least more practically, more directly so, than those in what's called 'religion.')

This captures so much of what I feel about Anne Hamilton's interview, this podcast (radio show) and life in general. What a beautiful world we all inhabit. It is purely magic, and I am so grateful to have others who see it, too:

"The world we could see if our hearts and our eyes were wide open." This is how I strive to live.

Thank you.