As the Hamon Arts Library opens up for the fall 2020 semester, the Hawn Gallery is very pleased to announce that the spring exhibition, Allyson Packer: Sounding, is also open for viewing until September 13. This exhibition, about which more can be read below, opened on February 7. Due to the campus closing in March, this exhibition did not continue its full run to March 29. Members of the SMU community holding an active ID to come into any of the SMU Libraries are now welcome to experience this exhibition. As throughout the University, staff at Hamon have also taken measures to create a safe and healthy environment in the building. All SMU visitors must wear a mask, remain six feet apart, and hand sanitizer is on site as well. Gallery occupancy is limited to three people at a time.

A virtual walkthrough of the exhibition can also be viewed on Glasstire from its April posting.

To read more about this exhibition, please see an Interview with artist, Allyson Packer, on Sounding at the Hawn Gallery, Hamon.

Fall 2020 exhibition hours: Monday, Aug. 24 – Friday, Aug. 28 – 8 am – 6 pm; closed Saturday, Aug. 29.  Beginning Sunday, Aug. 30 – 2 – 9 pm on Sundays; Monday – Thursday, 8 am – 9 pm; Friday, 8 am – 6 pm; and Saturday, 12 – 5 pm until September 13.

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Allyson Packer: Sounding is 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.

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.


Featured image credit: Ciara Elle Bryant

Dezeuze, Anna. Almost Nothing : Observations on Precarious Practices in Contemporary Art. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2017.