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The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts Presents stylus – a project by Ann Hamilton

The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts presents stylus, a project created by installation artist Ann Hamilton in response to the Pulitzer building, which was designed by architect Tadao Ando. The exhibition is on view through January 22, 2011.

As a visual artist whose contributions to contemporary art span three decades, Ann Hamilton’s installations are notable in part for their capacity to weave a broad palette of media into engaging sensory environments. Conceived in response to the Pulitzer’s mission to be both sanctuary and laboratory, stylus is structured around live acoustic elements. The sound design was developed in collaboration with composer and sound designer Shahrokh Yadegari.

Accompanying the project is a similarly experiential multimedia online catalogue, located at Visitors can explore Ann Hamilton’s work and immerse themselves in the images, video, and audio that fill the installation.

stylus engages the building in a multitude of ways, transforming the space into a unique audio and visual environment. Sound is a constant responsive presence. This begins at the front desk, where visitors “sign-in” and the piece calls back. Two turntables are situated in the Entrance Gallery, along with a shelf of records, inviting visitors to select a record to play with the gallery attendant. A steel table in the Main Gallery is equipped with rolling balls and a microphone. Visitor interaction with these elements will feed into the audio system, including two player pianos in the Cube and Lower Galleries. Visitors are also encouraged to communicate with stylus by calling (314) 884-1553 to read a story or a poem, share a vocal call from a cultural tradition, sing a lullaby, or serenade the night. This message may be projected during the installation from the five exterior speakers mounted to the Pulitzer roof. A rotating selection of books from the St. Louis Public Library are available in the Entrance Gallery for visitors to read within the exhibition and concordance texts are created weekly from international newspapers and are available for purchase. The texts intersect along key words, re-ordering the information to create new meaning from these outside sources. In a similar fashion, visitors to the installation bring their background and individual perspectives to the viewing experience, informing their interpretation of the work. These interactions are further animated by prerecorded sound, which continuously moves throughout the galleries. In addition, the Mezzanine is installed with jumping beans, whose sound is amplified. The beans move in response to the intensity and presence of exterior light and warmth, in the same way that natural light animates the interior volumes of the Pulitzer building.

Visual elements include a large video of clapping hands, which uses the main column as an axis point as it greets, motions to, or threatens visitors as they move into the Entrance Gallery. Five rolling platform ladders situated throughout the Main Gallery serve as a base for rotating projectors that cast videos across the surrounding space. A wall of cast-paper hands, installed in shelves that extend across the Watercourt windows, are puppet-like forms that suggest both disused shells and props for collective gatherings.

Duality is an important element in this installation and can be seen throughout the piece. Above and below, right to left, light to darkness, silent to speech, even Ando’s architecture and Ellsworth Kelly’s permanent sculpture Blue Black, poetically reference primary, dualistic relationships. The materials that make up stylus engage a relationship between the individual and the group, a single voice and a chorus, a silent book and a spoken reading, and finally, between a solitary listening and a collective hearing.

Through art exhibitions, programs, collaborations, and exchanges with other institutions, the Pulitzer aims to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of art and architecture and is a resource for artists, architects, scholars, students and the general public.

The Pulitzer is open and free to the public Wednesdays from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. In addition, the Pulitzer will be open every Thursday evening from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. for programming and to give visitors the opportunity to experience the work at night.

Image: Ann Hamilton, “stylus,” 2010. The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts.

The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts
3716 Washington Boulevard
St. Louis, MO 63108

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