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Audio Description of The Knot (Le Noeud) by Kim Hamisky

On the brick patio in front of the doors to UNC-Chapel Hill’s Genetic Medicine Building sits a bench whose seat is twisted into a knot. Stretching over thirteen feet, Kim Hamisky’s bronze sculpture, The Knot (Le Noeud), offers sitters two smooth, rectangular slabs on either side of this central tangle. The bench is backless, and sitters can choose to face away from the building or towards it.

Walking from Mason Farm Road towards the front doors to the Genetic Medicine Building, visitors can see the full length of the bench. Towards the center, Hamisky’s sculpture waves and curves in on itself, coming together in an overhand knot. The sculpture’s seat is composed of a long, thin rectangular strip of metal whose smoothness and uniformity gives it the appearance of a thick, flat ribbon which goes over, under, and through itself to form a knot. The middle of the knot holds the most tension in the piece and the edges of the bronze ribbon bow slightly as they cross over each other, creating a u-shaped curve in the body of the ribbon. There is a sinuous quality to this piece. The rectangular seat gives way to a soft, serpentine figure eight. This sensuous curve is juxtaposed with the firm, straight edges that trace the outlines of the ribbon-like slab.

Despite the solidity of this bronze form, The Knot incorporates straight, harsh lines and contrasting fluidity, morphing from rigid angles to flexible circularity. At either end, the bench’s seat is straight and generally flat. The edges are sharp and the corners form right angles. Upon closer inspection, a sitter will notice that there is a slight buckling to the seat. One side is slightly convex, rising above the flat plane of the seat, and the other side is concave, bowing gently towards the ground.

The bench is stretched out over two rectangular legs that connect with the bench seat about a quarter of the way in on both sides. The legs mimic the shape and width of the seat and sit flush with the seat they support. These legs have no curve to them and are perpendicular to the bench. They are perfect rectangles and are slightly thicker than the seat.

Moving to either end of the bench, it is possible to look through the knot to the other side. There are two gaps between the loops of the knot, suggesting that it is not tightly, or forcefully tied yet, but rather in the process of loosening or tightening, the moment of tying or untying.

Though Hamisky’s sculpture is bronze, the rich brown of the metal is obscured in places by a thin layer, or patina, of green oxidation. The warm bronze hue shows through the green in certain areas, most notably in the twists and turns of the knot and in areas along the flat edges where visitors have sat on the bench. The patina on the knot is green and orange, and there are striations throughout, showing signs of wear. The legs of the bench are almost entirely covered in the green film. Throughout the sculpture, the surface is mottled in different ways. In some areas, there are drops of green and radiating circles, likely caused by rain and weather. There are also straight lines where the patina is thicker and lines where visitors seem to have scratched into the surface with hands, pens, or keys. The overall effect is a mix of circles, ripples, straight lines, and blotches, a medley of curves and radiating lines that coalesce into a textured pattern.

The parallel seats on the left and right sides of the bench and its tumultuous twisting center suggests that the backless bench is functional, but a pair of visitors will have to make a choice: sit next to one another on either side of the knot or be separated by it. The knot connects, secures, and unifies the piece. But it is also a tangle, and renders a certain level of difficulty, of disruption.

I see a rectangular shape that curves and wraps around itself in the center, and continues from the opposite direction. You can feel the history of the work and understand the time and material by the faded color. The material that chose the artist bronze gives the tone and adds an edge and magic to the piece. With that in mind, hard material like bronze looks as flexible as rubber or a strip of clay. We can imagine the trajectory of the material, the transition from liquid to solid, molten metal that poured into a mold in an amorphous form that brings a new set of assumptions about the final piece. The sight and the point of view of the audience play a role as you can see the actual materiality only if you get close. Then you might experience an intimate moment of surprise and a gentle metaphor of connecting and being together.

  • David Benarroch is an artist who works in sculpture, drawing, and installation. He lives and works between Durham, NC and Madrid, Spain. His artistic exploration involves an intuitive and poetic approach to his works and they reflect his interest in process, movement, body, and gesture.

A rectangular slab of bronze tied in a knot in the middle and supported horizontally by two legs.

Kim Hamisky, French, born in Vietnam, 1943-2002, The Knot (Le Noeud), 1992, bronze, 38 x 156 x 38 in. (96.5 x 396.2 x 96.5 cm). Gift of Hugh A. McAllister, Jr., MD. ’66, 2016.31.

I see a tangle, not a knot! As a mathematician, I understand knots to be closed loops, but this piece has a start and finish point (the two ends of the bench), making it a tangle instead. In my mind, a tangle is always a smaller part of some greater whole. If we could grab the ends of this piece and connect them, we would have a knot but we could also add some other tangles as well and make other different knots. In other words, the tangle by itself doesn’t define a fixed single knot in which it can exist. This sort of perspective feels apt for a work that doubles as something functional, a bench, that can exist and serve both its practical and aesthetic functions in a large variety of locations. Once we choose a location, one work is defined, but if we ignore the choice of environment and focus only on the object, we can see the potential for an infinite number of different wholes that we can create.

  • Andrew Adair is a Ph.D. candidate in the UNC Mathematics Department. He researches knots and related mathematical concepts.
  • Consider the medium of this sculpture. What associations do you have with bronze? How does Hamisky’s sculpture confirm or counter your assumptions about the material?
  • What comes to mind when you think of the work’s title — The Knot (Le Noeud)? Does Hamisky’s sculpture seem to unify, bond, and join, or does the sculpture evoke the confusion of a tangle? What do you see that elicits these reactions or associations?
  • Many artists consider both form and function when making their work. Spend some time looking closely at the formal or visual elements of the sculpture. How does the artist’s use of line, shape, and space inform your experience of the work? Now consider movement, balance, and proportion. When you finally sit down on the bench, how does your experience of the sculpture change as you physically engage with it?

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