New York

Amy Hauft

Lipton Owens Company

Installed in a former bank, Amy Hauft’s Counting to Infinity, 1994, addressed the abstraction of an economy divorced from hard currency. One entered the building through a minuscule foyer that opened onto a steep flight of stairs. Despite the unkempt air and undistinguished architecture of this building, the high-ceilinged space suggested a place where people could trust their money would be managed judiciously. A tall teller’s counter with frosted-glass screens stood toward the south end of the floor, while toward the north end, formerly the site of the executive offices, an open space was illuminated by a row of tall windows. In this open area, Hauft constructed a ramp of latticework and stretched, translucent fabric, raising the floor plane to just beneath the windowsills. Bathed by an evanescent light, the stairs seemed to float through the space. This intervention placed the viewer at a distance, as if to mark the intangibility of the world of financial transactions. Standing against the tellers’ counter, one had the feeling of looking into an unbounded space.

In contrast to the seeming infinitude of the empty, white space to the north, the vault was filled with objects that provided texture and detail. For the installation, the safe door was left ajar, but the small space was secured by an iron-rung gate. Stacks and rows of safe-deposit boxes remained as evidence of the many individuals who had entrusted the bank with their money, significant documents, and family heirlooms. In this congested space, Hauft installed piles of bagged rice—on the floor and on narrow counters—that recalled uncounted sacks of money; loose grains of rice overflowed drawers and safe-deposit boxes. Paradoxically, the abundance conveyed the contemporary dematerialization of value—the loss of the “neighborhood” bank as the keystone of the community and the disappearance of hard currency.

Patricia C. Phillips