WESTWOOD—With its futuristic sliding doors and innovative “moving platform”, Michael Hobart’s “Ascension” is the Hammer museum’s latest installation to test the bounds of the contemporary art world.
Located in an unassuming corner between the entrances of several galleries, the piece consists of an isolated room that travels between floors via a concealed pulley system. Viewers are encouraged to interact with the piece by pressing labeled buttons, the first of which opens a pair of sliding doors that provide access to the main platform. Upon entrance, installation participants are then treated to one of several options: either travelling upwards to the floor above, downwards to the floor below, or reopening the door, thus allowing them to leave the installation without changing levels.
“One of the most exciting features of Ascension is that it allows museum goers to experience a dichotomy of motion along a vertical axis while simultaneously giving participants a forum to interact with the piece directly via a button-based interface,” said curator Susan Mills. “In the spirit of self-expression, each individual or group of individuals that enters the installation is given a chance to ‘choose their own journey’, so to speak, and leaves with a totally unique experience—whether that be the simple, sensory experience of traveling from the second floor to the third, or something on a deeper, more personal level.”
Beyond this, many critics have noted the hidden social experiment provided by Michal Hobart’s Ascension. In the time it takes to travel between floors, participants are forced to acknowledge the presence of a complete stranger in their personal space. Alternatively, if having entered alone, they are said to experience an overwhelming sense of isolation, underscored by the low, impersonal hum of the installation’s mechanics. These interactions are subsequently taped on closed circuit television and shown to an isolated “security guard”, who adds a dimension of voyeurism to the experience as a whole.
“What’s extremely bizarre, I find, and what makes me especially excited to be a part of such a project, is that many of the participants will refuse to speak to each other. Rather, more often than not, they will stand facing towards the door in anticipation, arms limp at their side, almost as if they are consciously trying to deny each other’s very existence,” noted Bruce, the actor who plays the role of security guard. “In that sense, this speaks to Sartre’s famous existential understanding of The Other as well. I commend Michael for capturing that.”
In addition to this, Mr. Hobart says he plans to introduce a new auditory element to the piece this coming month. A calming, repetitive musical motif will provide contrast to the “industrial unease of vertical flight,” said the artist. Among the pieces being put into consideration are an acoustic midi sax version of “Girl from Ipanema”, as well as the work of Jazz artist Yanni, whom the artist greatly admires.
The piece opens to the public starting next Sunday and runs until mid-June. One additional private viewing of the piece will be held this Friday from 8-11 PM. Contact the Hammer Museum’s ticketing office for more information. ❖
(Image cut-outs from skalgubbar.se)