Allyson Packer: Sounding
On view February 7 – March 29, 2020

Monday – Thursday | 9 AM – 9 PM
Friday | 9 AM – 6 PM

Saturday | 12 – 5 PM
Sunday | 2 – 9 PM

Opening Reception with the artist | Friday, February 7 | 5 – 7 pm

The Hawn Gallery is pleased to present Allyson Packer: Sounding, a site-specific, interactive installation spanning all four floors of the Hamon Arts Library at SMU. With looping video, text-based instructions, and subtle interventions into the architecture and resources of the library, Packer offers viewers an encounter with the possibility of the infinite. While infinity may only exist as a concept, spaces like libraries, Packer argues, can suggest it. The building itself has clearly defined boundaries, and at any given time the physical and digital materials that make up its collection of resources can be quantified numerically. There is a sense of impalpable depth too contained within The Hamon Library, the sublime potential of what is already known, what could be known, what is not yet known, and what is unknowable. The exhibition’s title, Sounding, describes the process of measuring— originally with lead and line, today with sonar— the depth of a body of water, without making direct physical contact with it. Likening the contents of the library to a body of water, the pieces included in this installation act as sounding instruments to plumb the collection’s literal and metaphorical depths. Water, in many different forms, recurs thematically across the whole exhibition. It appears in direct citation of J.M.W. Turner’s paintings, in reference to a fountain outside of the library, in imagery based on folders containing sheet music from the Hamon stacks, and on the public computer desktops.

For several months, Packer has visited the library regularly. She spent long afternoons wandering the stacks, getting to know Hamon’s internal and external rhythms and overlooked quirks. This extended visitation with no other purpose allows her to develop an outsider’s peculiar knowledge of the place that’s at once intimate and remote. The resulting interventions into the space deviate only slightly from a patron’s usual experience of the library. Most are subtle to the point of precarity— the term that French art historian, Anna Dezeuze, in Almost nothing: Observations on precarious practices in contemporary art, uses to describe artworks that exist on the verge of disappearing into the fabric of the everyday (5). By existing on the border between perceptible and imperceptible, Packer’s work redirects viewers’ attention to their own bodies, and their awareness of their presence in a space.

Allyson Packer will speak about her work at the opening reception on Friday, February 7.

Artist bio

Allyson Packer makes artwork that engages viewers in an examination of the myths and values embedded in the built environment. Her installations and performances have been shown at Nahmad Projects (London), Hyde Park Art Center (Chicago), and Birds + Richard (Berlin), among other venues. Her upcoming solo exhibition, Inland Sea, will open at the Las Cruces Art Museum’s Brannigan Cultural Center in July 2020. Packer earned her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and her BFA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She lives in Denton, Texas, where she is a faculty member in the College of Visual Arts and Design at the University of North Texas.


Image courtesy of the artist.

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