Curatorial Statement

O N E E V E R Y O N E, a public art project by Ann Hamilton, is framed by the idea that human touch is the most essential means of contact and a fundamental expression of physical care. Commissioned by Landmarks for the Dell Medical School, it began as a campaign to photograph more than five hundred members of the Austin community. The project welcomed any person who had ever received or provided care—everyone.

With more than twenty-one thousand images, the photographs of O N E E V E R Y O N E expanded to assume multiple forms: architectural porcelain enamel panels that line the corridors of the medical school; a newsprint publication featuring contributions by poets, philosophers, scientists, and essayists; a book intended to circulate freely that holds at least one portrait of each participant; a website where the same photographs may be downloaded; an exhibition in collaboration with the Visual Arts Center; and a library of images that will enhance future buildings of the medical complex.

The relationship between photographer, camera, and subject is central to Hamilton’s concept and follows naturally from her early photographic experiments. These featured self-portraits (body object series) as well as images made by placing a pinhole camera in her mouth, causing it to function both as shutter and eye (face to face).

To create O N E E V E R Y O N E, participants stood behind a semi-transparent membrane that focused only the points of the body touching the material. The subjects, directed by the artist to turn in various ways, could not see through the membrane and relied on the sound of her voice for guidance. Hamilton describes this condition as analogous to the experience of medical care: the sitters, like the patients, offer themselves for physical examination. In doing so, they accept vulnerability and extend trust.

Her resulting portraits share an ethereal quality. They capture expressions of intense inward focus as the subjects—unable to see behind the membrane—shed recognition of the camera and concentrated on the artist’s verbal prompts. Faces are elusive, obscured by the material that only renders sharply the contact of touch. By trading literal appearance for a less tangible resemblance, a different kind of portrait emerges—one that is at once intimate and ineffable.

O N E E V E R Y O N E extends the broad and most consequential themes of Hamilton’s art: the primacy of sense experience; the systematic representation of the individual; the commonalities of peoples in all their manifestations; and the power and poignancy of communal exchange.

—Andrée Bober, Landmarks Director