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Ipek Duben on the Unforgettable Lyricism of Ann Hamilton’s Installation, ‘Tropos’

‘I remember being hit by the odour of smoke and the soft, hazy light bathing the enormous space of the abandoned factory’

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Ann Hamilton, Tropos, 1994, performance documentation. Courtesy: the artist and Dia Art Foundation, New York; photograph: Thibault Jeanson

I saw Ann Hamilton’s Tropos at the Dia Center for the Arts in New York in 1994. It was around the time I began to feel the need to move away from the wall to a total environment in which viewers could experience and sense the deeper meaning of Manuscript 1994 (1994), an artist’s book I had been working on for some time. Tropos struck me like lightning. I remember being hit by the odour of smoke and the soft, hazy light bathing the enormous space of the abandoned factory. In the gallery, a seated figure was reading a book and burning away the printed text, line by line, while the horse-hair that covered the entire floor absorbed the smell of smoke. As I walked on it, I could hear the low murmur of a man struggling to speak among the creaking sound of my footsteps, disturbing the almost reverential silence. The lyricism of Tropos and its sounds, light and smells have stayed with me since then. In all of my installations, I’ve tried to reach viewers through all of their senses, hopefully leading them to transformational experiences.

Published in Frieze Masters, issue 7, 2018, with the title ‘Artist's Artists’.

Ipek Duben lives in Istanbul, Turkey. This year, she has had a solo exhibition at Pi Artworks, London, UK, and her work was included in the 4th Mardin Biennial, Turkey.

Issue 7

First published in Issue 7

September 2018
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