abc, Ann Hamilton (American, born 1956), Single-channel digital video, trasferred from Beta tape, black and white, silent, 13 min.


Ann Hamilton (American, born 1956)
Single-channel digital video, trasferred from Beta tape, black and white, silent, 13 min.
Variable Media
Credit Line:
Gift of Peter Norton Family Foundation, 2001
Accession Number:
Rights and Reproduction:
© 1999 Ann Hamilton. Used by permission
Not on view
Over the last two decades, Hamilton has used a wide range of media-from photography and video to installations and performance-to forge new pathways of communication and affect specific to the feminine experience, based in qualities of touch, materiality, and the body. While all of her work involves a rigorous questioning of the primacy of sight among the senses, it does so paradoxically through a nearly rapturous visual beauty: installations featuring glimmering beads of water or pink powder coursing down a white wall (the latter settling over the braille dots of a Charles Reznikoff poem), or candle wax dripping from the rafters of a hollowed-out rowhouse onto an empty ledger.

abc was shown opposite one of the artist's "weeping walls" at the 2000-2001 Carnegie International, and shares the same ineffable poetry as these larger, more ephemeral works. In a 26-minute loop, a wetted fingertip slowly erases a backwards alphabet; the amoeba-like form then retraces its path, "writing" the sequence forwards and in correct order. "The camera is following a lens of water," Hamilton has said, "that is the point of contact between finger and glass-it acts as a magnifier." With exquisite economy of means and hypnotic simplicity, the artist compounds modes of visual apprehension (linguistic, photographic) in order to dissolve them into the untranslatable realm of touch. As a work whose beginning is an end and vice versa, abc is also a fitting first foray into the medium of video art at the Metropolitan Museum.
Artist; [Sean Kelly, New York]; Peter Norton Family Foundation, Santa Monica, California

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Photographs: A Decade of Collecting," June 5, 2001–September 4, 2001.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Closed Circuit: Video and New Media at the Metropolitan," February 23, 2007–April 29, 2007.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Surface Tension," September 15, 2009–March 15, 2010.

The original video was created in 1994 and later editioned in 1999.