december process

 little wire time lapse trampoline snow still 

This month’s work consisted of preparing for and attending the winter residency.  For the residency I wished not just to show a powerpoint presentation, but also to involve the Transart community in an act of communal play.

Since my project has evolved beyond being an exercise in building, engineering and the evolution of an aerialist, I wanted to share something additional to documentation.  I planned to bring something tangible from my project, something which is not shown solely, but experienced.  During a conversation with my advisor Mary Ting, I described an idea of how to do this.  I would weave a small net which I could bring to NYC.  We would suspend this net by gathering all together around its edge and pulling it taught with our collective effort.  This would allow one person to play on the tensioned net.  The inspiration for this idea, in part, came from the Eskimo festival of Nalukataq.  This festival is in the spring and is where and when the bounty of the whale hunts are shared by being distributed to the community.  During this festival, conflict between rival communities is ignored to allow distant relatives to share in the celebration and abundance.   The central event, from which the festival derives its name, is the game of the blanket toss.  Sewn skins form a trampoline which is held by the participants positioned around the perimeter, and a performer is supported on the surface and then tossed  into the air by collective effort.  Anyone can be the performer, but usually the captains of the hunts and their wives are the first to be tossed into the air and while they are airborne they throw gifts into the crowd.

The idea of a person being tossed high into the air in order to distribute goods is for me a rich metaphor.  He or she can be high above the rest, but it is the many who send this person airborne.  The power of a leader is dependent on the existence of the subjects and their ability to work together.

If along only one edge people pull on the blanket, the flyer may tumble, loosing his or her footing.  For the flyer to fly upright bouncing with poise, the edges of the blanket must be pulled evenly and in unison.  To me this says many things interesting about the dynamics inherent in power relationships.  For instance, I feel the strength of the flyer develops from the unity of his or her blanket supporters.

I thought that the game of blanket toss would make a perfect introduction to my presentation, so I set about construction a small net which I would be able to bring to NYC.  I built the net in a little over a week, with the help of some terrible weather which kept me off my wire, quarantining me to the weaving table.  I also decided to bring some sculptural elements which I have been building recently.  They are called cable grommets.

wire rope grommet 2

They are made by unraveling a single strand of wire rope whose length is dependent upon the diameter of the ring to be made.  This strand is then wrapped around itself 6 times until a wire rope ring is formed in the shape of circle. The two ends of the strand then stick out in opposite directions from a single point tangent to the outside of the ring.  The tricky part is burying those ends by moving them into the central void formed between the six strands as they lay in a circle touching each other.  As the end strands cross each other, they are pressed from the surface to disappear into the void in the core of the wire rope.  This requires considerable force which is exerted by two large Marlin Spikes (basically two modestly tapered steel spikes).wire rope grommet 1

wire rope grommet 3

The rings are interesting because most people have never seen rope take a circular, seemingly uninterrupted form.  We have the expectation that rope is a linear material constructed of fibers which have a beginning and an end.  But the ring’s “fibers” appear, at least to a person not acquainted with their construction, to have no beginning or end.  They are perceived to be continuous which feels impossible.  One of first things I hear from people when they see a ring is “how does that happen.”  It is puzzling and in the same way that a slight of hand trick ignites the imagination so do the rings.

The other important thing I showed at the residency was documentation of my performance and event.  I also showed a short video of jumping on a trampoline in the snow, which I felt embodied an element of play which is critical to my process.

The response to my work was interesting to hear.  Many people felt that I had done much to respond to the criticism which I faced one year ago, mainly the question of how can I involve the audience beyond just spectators. Nicolas had an interesting point which was to abandon structures which function and make some things which only could work in fantasy.  For instance, a woven paper wire which could never be walked upon.  Others felt that the documentation could really use the assistance of another, something which I have felt since the performance.  It seemed that people also wanted to hear more about the conceptual basis of the work which I have a tendency to avoid.  I think that this will be something which I will do when I present the final result this summer and can look back at my career in Transart working to reach the threshold of completion.

I am really looking forward to the break and using the time to delve into the authoring of my manual which I would like to have well underway at the beginning of next semester.

tensioning isometric

tensioning guy diagram


net corner detail

I also wanted to thank everyone at the residency for sharing their work and ideas.  I had a great time and it was a pleasure to be part of this vital community.

Happy Holidays, jamie






November process

Since my last process update I held my first public performance on the high wire.  About one hundred people drove out to my land and participated. Even though it was quite windy and I was extremely nervous, I gave three 5- 9 minute performances over the duration of the afternoon.  I also set up the small net as a sort of trampoline and a low rope for people to play on if they signed a waiver.  The children loved the net and some played on it for hours.  I also set up a tarp pavilion in which to display drawings and plans.


drawing and people

matthew net
children net 1

children net 3       children net 2

children net 4

performance 1 dismount

performance 2

Most exciting to me was to see that this journey and project which at times I fear to be quite insular and self indulgent has, by being shared, transformed into something which is neither.  It has opened and showed potential, by turning into a demonstration in the freedom and joy contained in one’s initiative creating a shared experience of passion.  My building of the structure and performance upon it seemed to act synergistically upon participants in the event.  The passion and love of the act is felt by the understanding of the tremendous labor which goes into making it possible.  The labor involved in the weaving of the net, as I can tell, is understood almost universally.  The labor in welding, fabrication, and other processes of construction seems less tangible to the average person, unless they themselves are directly involved in such types of building.  The net perhaps is something more intimate, rare and more mystical than the tube steel structure which proliferate urban scenery.  Certainly in human history we have a very long and important relationship with ropes, threads, nets, and textiles.  I, for one, have a relationship and attraction to rope and line which feels instinctual.

It was amazing how different an act feels with an audience.  Right before the public began to arrive I ran through my routine several times and it felt solid and graceful.  The turns were crisp and I did not waver with steps or balances.  However at the performance as I climbed the towers and prepared to step out on the wire I felt numbed by fear.  It was as if my blood had thickened and was causing my limbs to feel hypoxic and clumsy.  I took my first step out on the wire and realized that no matter how much I practice in solitude, nothing prepares me for the the very different challenge of giving a live performance.  Everything felt new and unstable.  My breath and heart felt foreign and I struggled to keep my steps steady.  The gusts of wind felt stronger, and indeed they were, at one point my hat was blown off of my head and out of sight into the trees!  During the performance I passed through the movements as if in a dream,which over the last year I have worked hard to master.

What made these moments in front of the audience feel so different than the hundreds of others I have spent alone with the wire?  I think that it can be reduced to something elemental, the desire to succeed and to repeat past achievements.  I wanted to do as well in that moment as I had in the past.

However the beauty and curse of the wire is that it is so thin. One’s balance upon it is too unpredictable to be certain.  At best one keeps his center close over the wire using only his arms to destroy the movements of falling.  The more one is able to balance with the arms, the steadier the gaze and the rest of the body becomes free to dance.  But as soon as one’s balance passes outside of this precise realm, more effort both physically and mentally must be used to stay upon the wire.  The vision now fights to maintain its target and the body must act on a combination of instinct, training, and luck.  I find myself passing between these two states and slowly with more and more practice I find that fluctuations occur less frequently.  I am more often in a state of dynamic stillness on the wire than I used to be.  It is like meditation. Through practice over time one begins to gain control over the meanderings of the mind.  My equilibrium on the wire is no doubt tied to the tides of my mind.

I have said in the past it is perhaps better not to think at all.  I am beginning to realize this statement is too abstract, absolute, and does little justice in regards to the complexity of the situation.  The sensation of pressure on flesh is a thought of sorts, so to is our ability to will ourselves in moving our bodies through space.  To me this presents a central dilemma in understanding the nature of existence and action.  We have thoughts which can be quite removed from reality dreams for example, when our mind invents entire landscapes and situations.  We can have delusions where our cognition fails us.  We have immense mental constructs which we build over the course of our life allowing us to navigate through time, space, society, and relationships.  These feelings and constructs seem as real as anything.   Yet time and time again we are reminded that they are imperfect abstractions of a greater more inclusive reality.  I will be standing on the wire feeling perfectly balanced and suddenly I am fighting for my balance.  What did I miss, when did the feeling/thought of being well balanced pass from a reality to a delusion.  Einstein using mathematic as an example spoke of this dilemma.

“At this point an enigma presents itself which in all ages has agitated inquiring minds.  How can it be that mathematics, being after all a product of human thought which is independent of experience, is so admirably appropriate to the objects of reality?  Is human reason, then, without experience, merely by taking thought, able to fathom the properties of real things?”

Einstein goes on to say the the apparent truths which mathematics reveal are based upon axioms which are true in theoretical environments, but may have little to do with reality itself.  For instance between to points a straight line can be defined.  We generally think of this as a true statement, a law of nature.  But does such a thing as a straight line exist?  It would be impossible to achieve with real matter as even a slight influence by gravity causes any material to deflect.  Our wonderful and simple explanation becomes exponentially more complex as we leave the world of ideas and enter into reality where everything is warped and curvilinear.

Thus in theory I know that to balance an object is an exercise in geometry. If the object has a base of measurable dimensions, one simply must draw a line from the center of gravity to the center of that base and then point this line like an arrow towards the center of the earth.  This is the fundamental building concept of “plumb” which most spectacularly allows us to build towers which reach high into the clouds.  Well there are some problems with this.  One, if the base is minuscule there will be very little friction between the support and the object.  As the earth turns this friction might not be enough to counteract the procession which the object will make as its inertia keeps it still and its support (the earth) rotates.  So it may fall even with everything initially balanced perfectly.  Now take the complex example of the equilibrist with a multitude of bones and joints allowing all sorts of movement.  Articulating and stabilizing these bones and joints are hundreds of muscles orchestrated by a mysterious and elegant electro-magnetic system which acts as commissure between the tangible physical world of body and matter and  the intangible spectral world of spirit and energy.  Everything is in flux.  The muscles tremble and vibrate adjusting under load.  Some nerve pathways become pinched by the strain of the muscles affecting proprioception.  Then the mind takes what information is available and does its best to interpret, sending waves of electrical signals to orchestrate muscular engagement.  Giving all these variables one is never for a moment going to archive a perfect pose of balance, at least in life, perhaps a rigid corpse could achieve static perfection, but then it would rot.   Somehow my mind is still fascinated by this potential.  It often deludes itself into thinking that I have accomplished it.  This notion is the very thing that destroys the grace of the previous moment.  The attachment to an abstract projected goal will steal the grace and joy intrinsic in each moment from anyone.

Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on. Every reaction is a learning process; every significant experience alters your perspective.

So it would seem foolish, would it not, to adjust our lives to the demands of a goal we see from a different angle every day? How could we ever hope to accomplish anything other than galloping neurosis?

Hunter S Thompson

The real question is how to maintain a curiosity and a search of love rather than a longing for an accomplishment.  To be able to do this while on stage would be a great gift not just to the performer, but to all present.  I experienced this recently while attending a Michael Franti and Spearhead concert.  I dream of being able to present an experience of that sort of soulful generosity and authenticity.  I don’t think artistic contributions of this sort can be designed, or engineered they must be born in a crucible of action, not conducted for profit or popularity, but out of the fascination and love for the act of creation itself.

“A wise man once said that all human activity is a form of play. And the highest form of play is the search for Truth, Beauty and Love. What more is needed? Should there be a ‘meaning’ as well, that will be a bonus?

If we waste time looking for life’s meaning, we may have no time to live — or to play.”

Arthur   C. Clark

foward pikeshackles and rigging plate wire rope grommets




october process

I have been busy preparing for my performance and show which is on the 19th of October.

The performance is open to the public, although people have to rsvp since parking is limited. Axle Contemporary, an arts organization located in Santa Fe is sponsoring and hosting the event. Here is a link to their website:

I am giving several 10 minute performances throughout the afternoon. For the past month I have been working on choreographing this performance. It includes several difficult elements strung together by controlled paces and salutes on the wire with various reclining positions. Two of these elements are still uncertain and are not where I would like them to be for public presentation. I may stumble or fall during the execution of some of the intricate sections. This is a challenge for me, but at the same time, it is the reality of any performance. Wire walking is notoriously uncertain and it is not uncommon for a performer to lose his or her balance and have to clutch onto the wire to arrest a fall. Last year in China an acrobat named Aisikaier fell and was unable to grab the wire while attempting to cross a gorge walking backwards while blindfolded. Luckily, or rather miraculously, he plummeted several hundred feet into dense forest and emerged with only minor scraps and bruises.

On a high wire one becomes the prisoner of a small morsel of “ground” No wider than a thumb, the wire finds a place deep in the sole of your foot, securely seating itself between the bones of the ball mound. The wire comes alive pulsing swaying and twisting in response to one’s movements. The balance is no longer generated by the muscles of the foot and toes as it is on the ground, but it is instead a dynamic dance which demands the entire body to be quick and gentle. The eyes should be steady and clear, the muscles and bones awake. The breathe should be long like the wire itself. One would be better off without the mind’s fascination, the commentary upon its attempt to control the chaos of such a balance. The desire for balance does not help. “I want to find balance and stop struggling,” says the mind and the body trembles in anticipation. So you think you can find the stillness of a perfect balance? What about the blood rushing through your veins? The very realization that such a thing has happened will destroy it in the next moment. Instead, it is better not to think at all. Try to avoid making the comparison between then and now, success and failure, but instead to feel. This is the hardest attention to maintain, harder still while in front of an audience. Soon I find out whether I can transcend the terror of an audience, or give a performance which is less than my potential. I hope that when the moment comes, I find stillness of mind and depth of feeling. My fear of the performance is beginning to turn into a curiosity. What will happen?


Jamie Hamilton Highwire_002
Jamie Hamilton Highwire_007


Photos: Nick Merrick, © Hedrick Blessing

In addition to the performance, I have set a smaller net (which I wove last month) low to the ground for guests to climb onto and experience the feeling of suspension which is both fascinating and fun. I look forward to seeing how people interact with the net. Does it evoke playfulness, fear, or timidity?

bruce  jamie little net little net  cable balls

little net splice ring detail


 A small practice rope will be tensioned several feet from the ground so those who wish can have a go at balancing on a tight rope. I can also provide advice and help those aspiring to balance on the rope without a helping hand. I always enjoy teaching, and am looking forward to helping people explore their balance!

The fourth element of the show is an art “pavilion,” constructed of two tarps. One creates a canopy. The other becomes a vertical wall for hanging my drawings under this shelter. Seeing the tarps together, the completed structure looks a little like Corbusier’s Ronchamps, which never occurred to me on the drawing table. In this space, drawings and prints will be attached to the vertical tarp with a sandwich of magnets. I like the idea of a place to show art which is a portable structure. The form is architecturally beautiful to me and I am excited to explore setting it up in a park and having a pop up show.

tarp pavilion


drawings detailThe research element of my project has been a bit on hold this month because of the intense building and rehearsal necessary to prepare for this show. After the performance I am looking forward to taking a break from madly building and rigging to working more reflectively and reopening the books which I think especially interesting to my project. The first book on the list is Nicola Tesla’s autobiography. I also want to explore Alberts Einstein’s work on space, time, and the fabric of reality. John Burrow’s comment at the last winter residency, “it strikes me that the medium you are working with is gravity itself,” stills floats about in my mind and I think that some research into the nature of gravity and time is now important. These two invisible forces permeate matter and weave everything together. The more I think about them and John’s comment the more I think he was seeing something important in my corporeal and structural explorations.






september process

This month my practice has been threefold. First, I have been practicing many hours on the wire returning to the high wire after a six week hiatus.  I found that high wire walking, at least for me, is not like riding a bike. It was hard to return to and the first week I was very nervous with the exposure and air underfoot.  I have to regain the Ekagric focus which I felt toward the middle of July before departing for Berlin.  The wire itself now stand at 10 meters high. I raised the truss towers one more section in the beginning of July.  In addition there are two crows nests that I built atop each tower which allows me a safe area to stand and step onto and from the wire.  This is important because the ends of the wire are beyond the span of the net below so that a fall from the beginning or end of the wire would result in a fall to the ground and not into the net.   Each crows nest gives me a platform and railing to use if I lose my balance and unexpectedly must leap to the safety of the platform and railing (thankfully this has not yet happened).  Thus the first step off the platform is the most difficult.  Not only does one face the immediate need to balance dynamically, but for the first couple of steps one has no safety net below.

It is looking like I am going to host, along with the Santa Fe gallery Axle Contemporary, a performance on the wire and showing of my structure in the middle of October.  This summer I gave a small test performance for about 25 friends.  The following images are stills from that day.


pressing into vashirolling off

This performance was a success, I performed well under the pressure of a small audience. I had no idea how my balance would respond to stage fright).  The coming performance will be open to the public and will be a progression for me in the live performance element of my project.  It will also be an important milestone in my project as it will be the first time I share my project with the Santa Fe arts community and community at large.  This means that in the next weeks before giving the performance, my main focus will be choreographing a short routine and, as best I can, mastering its execution.  This is going to be quite challenging, but I have to cross the bridge into the realm of public performance.   While performing in front of a larger audience I might not be as smooth or composed as I would like, but  during the coming preparation time, I will work as hard as I can to develop qualities of virtuosity, artistic, and emotional content in my work upon the wire.

Second, I have begun to weave a smaller rectangular net, of which I am 1/3 of the way to completion.  This net will measure 12 x 20 feet when finished.  The mesh of this net is much finer than my high wire net.  The new net’s mesh measures 2.5” x 2.5” rather than the 4” x 4” of the larger net.  This smaller mesh will be more comfortable for the feet and will make it an easier surface on which to balance.  In addition, its weight is only a quarter of what my bigger net  weighs so it is going to be more portable.  A single person should be able to move and rig this net with ease.  This is not the case with the larger net which is quite difficult to transport by oneself. The more manageable weight and size of the smaller net is going to be of great benefit if I begin to travel with these structures.

baby net sculpture

Third, I have be working with documenting and creating a manual for the construction of one of my nets.  The following pictures and drawings are from the start of my manual for a construction of an aerial safety net.

net manuel drawing 1 net splicing squence diagram

net hitch instructionnet splice instructions

“In a world overflowing with beliefs and theories, there is a tremendous need for practical information obtained from firsthand experience.”  William Buhlman, Adventures Beyond the Body, pg 54

“You must plant your feet firmly on the ground if you want to jump high in the air.”  (Joan Miro)













may process



photo, Susanna Carlisle

photo, Susanna Carlisle

I am presenting my high wire installation as my final project.  It was built entirely of raw materials, designed and made by myself over the last 5 months.  Its dimensions are 163’ l x 104’ w x 23’ h.  Made of steel, wire rope, cable, paint, and nylon, the structure consists of  27 stakes, 3 trees, two truss towers supporting a high wire, 4 pole masts supporting a net, many pieces of rigging hardware and 5 hoists.  It is the largest and most complicated piece of sculpture that I have ever made.  In addition it is able to support people, allowing them to climb over it, walk on the wire if they are so inclined and move about in the net.   It is also portable, breaking down into manageable parts and could be erected anywhere.  In the next couple of months I am going to give a performance and showing of the sculpture for friends and some members of the community.  Thanks must be given for the help of certain individuals as well.  I would like to thank Susanna Carlisle and Bruce Hamilton for their advice in engineering and design as well as their tremendous help and support in this project, and of course also on the ground swinging sledges, surveying the site erecting and guying mast and towers and for  helping to document the process.  I would also like to thank Darien Raistrick, Charles Calef, and Billy Dressman for helping to suspend the net and being among the first to trust its integrity by leaping into it.

Photo, Susanna Carlisle


This month I have continued to spend time rehearsing on the high wire and refining the rigging of the sculpture.  The the net is being tuned and I have been experimenting with various tensioning geometries.  I have been practicing jumping from the wire into the net.  The first couple of times this was scary, but with time I have grown much more comfortable with being in the air.  I have been videoing some of my practice sessions as well. It is useful to be able to see myself in motion, the lines of my poses.  It allows me to refine my gestures and understand sources of imbalance.   It also allows me to see the dynamics of the structure under use.

I have been doing quite a bit of reading, and writing as well.  Recently I have come across Simon Rodia and his Watts Towers.  What incredible stories and sculptures they are.  Rodia for thirty years builds the towers without help or funds, solely on his own.  He builds them for no purpose, but rather to fulfill an inner desire.  When a neighbor asks him “what was it,” he answered “maybe I a go to the sky.”  The slender steel reinforced concrete arcs and columns are marvels of engineering.  These towers are a pure testament to the ingenuity and creativity of the human spirit.  As Buckminster Fuller said of them, “As time goes on they begin to reveal to humanity the soul of the artist.  How to see the beauty of nature and see it in its principals, to understand the principals.  He demonstrated the beauty on the freedom of initiative, not to politically stand on a soap box and talk, but actually to try to conceive of things that are important to humanity, to do more with less.”

one knee

Photo, Susanna Carlisle

wounded peacock

Photo, Susanna Carlisle

Photo,  Susanna Carlisle

Photo, Susanna Carlisle

Attached to this process are some photos of sequences and poses which I am refining day by day.  Some are of the net and structure itself, others are of myself walking with as much stillness and poise as I can, and others are of delicate balancings which will require great practice to master.  How quickly this first year passed!



Photo, Susanna Carlisle

folded net folded net