Giant Hand, Machine Project at the Hammer Museum

Through the Public Engagement Artist-in-Residence Program at the Hammer, explored interventions to address wayfinding and lunchtime audiences. Our inquiry resulted in a large, physical installation, The Giant Hand. This mechanized,informational sign points visitors to stairways, elevators, galleries, other points of interest, and finally themselves. Project Credits: Concept Maria Mortati & Mark Allen, Exhibit Design: Maria Mortati, Fabrication: Matt Jones, Programming: Ben Dean. Press can be found here.

In practice, I think everyone was a little surprised by the Giant Hand’s efficacy and popularity. Nonetheless, a pragmatic solution would have made the problem invisible such that it functionally ceased to exist… What I find valuable in thinking about these conflicting approaches is that they point to different potential identities for the Museum. Understood as a container, the Museum, along with its infrastructure and operations, is ideally unobtrusive. Machine’s wayfinding proposals, on the other hand, made the Hammer’s infrastructural concerns part of the art that it displayed. The value of this, from a public engagement perspective, is that the Museum becomes a more dynamic and approachable entity—and one that includes the public in discussions about the nature and function of the Museum. The invitation to think critically about the Museum itself is a gambit that implicitly extends to the art: it sends visitors a clear message that the Museum is a space in which art serves as the basis for a conversation about values in which they are welcome to participate.

– Mark Allen, Director and Founder, Machine Project. Excerpt from Public Engagement Artist in Residence Report