at hand, test 2001, by Ann Hamilton is a long term, yet visiting, modern art installation at the Smithsonian Institution’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

I walked into a cavernous room and overhead there were very quiet machines on tracks periodically dispensing 8 x 11 inch sheets of parchment paper…very nice parchment paper, crisp and translucent with purple/brown edges and otherwise the color of the walls and ceiling…a parchment room.

The papers flutter back and forth during their long trip down, wafted on breezes not felt at the ground level. They crunch underfoot or accumulate in virginal piles or are caught before landing by the stretched out hands of museum visitors.

There was a quiet voice saying “a mouth opens * a hand lifts * a hand signals * a mouth waits * a hand guides * a voice names * a hand holds * a mouth speaks * a finger points * a voice carries * a hand makes * a mouth comforts * a hand calls * a hand touches” and it went on and on in that that vein, the same but always different for 13 times this. It is compelling but quiet and makes me stop crunching paper to listen.

The docent invites me to take a piece of parchment paper with me as I leave.

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