Hammock Project Assessment

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The hammock project began as a way to create an open space that would invite users to relax, and, unpressed by their daily routines, allow them to initiate in conversation with those around them. The hammocks were created using old banner material and rope, and tied to existing structures which, aesthetically, played a similar role to trees. This design decision illustrates a focus on recreation. By referencing a familiar setup for hammocks, the idea was that, at least psychologically, the space would feel like an outdoors space, that is, as a contemplative space where one could recharge.
In practice, new furniture pieces at the U have been and are typically appropriated for use in sleeping, and the hammock project was no exception. This reflects something about the nature of student life, a life that revolves around the most basic routines of eating, sleeping, study and work. Our original prediction that the installation would encourage the formation of conversation groups shows a bias in our assumptions about the role of recreation in student life and in art. In reality, recreation, even in the art building, is a negligible interest on campus and perhaps indicates that recreation should better be thought of as explored in separate spaces. Indeed, most if not all of a student's routines are done in separate, distinct, and often distant spaces. Transitioning from one space to another can vary from being a slight annoyance to a being a great disruption in the flow of a day's productivity. For instance, art students in Regis often make huge treks back to Washington so as to commute to other campuses or their homes. To sleep, therefore, students must quit spaces of work, study and eating and, in the process, commit a huge amount of time to travel. This encourages the practice of napping in temporary spaces, such as the library, and appropriating whatever furniture is available to use in sleeping in order to maintain a sense of continuous productivity.
While the hammocks were not surrogate beds, they did provide temporary napping zones. I believe that, in many cases, this allowed students to stay on campus longer and enjoy a more continuous period of study and work. For art students this might have meant that they could work beyond the limits bound by class time. For other students this might have meant longer periods of study, uninterrupted by travel to Coffman, Willey, or other popular napping areas.
The proximity of the hammocks to the vending machines and cafe in the East building provided students with an ability to indulge in three of their four routines in a single space (provided they did not work at Regis, in which case all four routines would be serviced). When the hammocks and swings were removed, the space returned to an area meant for consuming food and as a transition space for classes. With their routines divided again into separate spaces, the removal of the hammocks would have been a wake-up call, alerting past users that future productivity would once again come at the cost of long periods of wakefulness and/ or strategic travel plans. No longer could student life unfold organically in a single space; it would now be conducted sporadically.
The removal of the hammocks, therefore, would have created room for discussion on topics such as the space between habits, the use of time and its effects on productivity, the convenience of one-stop spaces and the possibility for dependence on these spaces, the modular use of space in society, and the challenges of negotiating routine and travel in life today. Installed, the conversation would likely have remained fixated on issues of convenience. It was only by de-installing the work that a fuller discussion could be initiated.
In summary, the hammock project illuminated, and challenged, some key assumptions about art and recreation in student life. A space which provides relaxation is not necessarily the same as a space that encourages recreation. For students, relaxation means rest, usually in the form of naps. Furthermore, art does not necessarily play a recreational role, even though art shows are typically used in this way. In a public space, art is not automatically an intervention, but rather its default, in the case of the hammocks, is as a bystander to life as it is constructed there (While the swing project might suggest this is not the case, that one can promote these kinds of interventions, realistically one must consider the role of administrators in allowing this to take place and in moving the tables in the first place. Were the swings set up around the tables, an actual intervention might have occurred. In my opinion, the party space came the closest to this effect by disrupting and interweaving elements from its surroundings). We did find, however, that, on large enough scales, on the scales of campuses and cities, artworks can change the flow of everyday life, altering transitional spaces into one-stop living centers. Art in this context has the ability to change the structure of everyday life and, with its removal, initiate a discussion about the construction of these structures.

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