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Show and Tell: Tim Hawkinson

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Tim Hawkinson’s survey at the Whitney is full of buzzing contraptions, assembled with the kind of creative electrical engineering familiar to residents of college dorms and unrenovated brownstones. Hence the playfully titled Shorts (1993). “The idea came from the nature of the installation—there were a number of electrical pieces, and I wanted to run all of them off one central power grid,” says Hawkinson matter-of-factly. “The extension cord gets plugged in at one spot and travels on, kind of like a suspended trolley-car track.” The central knot of hanging wires resembles some kind of amateur torture device—but its maker insists the piece is actually quite comfortable. “I tried it on, wore it around the studio. It’s sort of like a heating pad.” In a show full of curatorial challenges—consider Hawkinson’s Überorgan (2000), a football-field-size installation of giant bagpipes that had to be installed off-site—Shorts is a humble but essential connector. “It’s not even really an installation,” says Hawkinson, “just a way of bringing power to pieces that don’t have a wall plug right where I want one.”

Tim Hawkinson
At the Whitney Museum of American Art
February 11 through May 29


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