[ISEA2011] Paper: Kim Morgan, Solomon Nagler & Martha Radice – Tracing the City: Exploring the Private Experience of Public Art through Art and Anthropology


What happens when the public space of the city intervenes in the private experience of art? We present the initial stages of an interdisciplinary research/creation project between two artists and an anthropologist that uses emerging technologies to explore the interstitial space between the private and the public in relation to art. ‘Art’ for us includes visual arts, performing arts, and other streams of creative culture such as architecture, design and literature. We define public urban space as those spaces in the city that are accessible to everyone (regardless of ownership), in which strangers interact in many different ways. People’s experience of art is typically private, whether or not the art is in a collective setting. They move through the art gallery in the bubble of their own personal space. They watch films ensconced in the dark of the cinema. Their emotional reactions to art are located in the body, and divulged to just a few companions. However, we posit that the public space of the city can challenge and interfere with the private experience of art. Indeed, we posit that the public space of the city can creatively be made to intervene in the private space of engagement with art.

Our project asks: What happens when the private experience of art is disrupted, unsettled or reframed by the chance encounters and events of the public space of the city? How do public art works incorporating decentralized, collaborative modes of production integrate into the city? How does this collaboration affect the structure and content of the work? How can interactive, locative technologies affect creative production or generate data? How can we use social science methodologies to both generate and interpret engagement with public artworks? We will explore these questions by combining creative processes in the visual and media arts, principally film (interactive cinema) and public art (site-specific installations), with empirical qualitative social science research (urban anthropology). This paper presents our theoretical framework and our plans to produce artworks that are generated in part by the intervention of the people, events, circumstances and knowledge of the urban public.

  • Kim Morgan is a sculpture/installation artist working in multi media.  For the last six years she has been exploring the process of cross-disciplinary collaborations through the creation of interactive public art projects in partnership with scientists, engineers and artists. Such projects use the public space as a laboratory to explore new ideas and current trends through the engagement of a wide audience.  Within this framework, her work addresses the impact of technology on people’s perceptions of time and space, and the shifting boundaries between the private and the public. Morgan’s work have been presented, installed, and exhibited in Canada, the United States and Spain. She has been awarded grants from the Saskatchewan Arts Board, Canada Council for the Arts, Center for Sustainable Communities, the Nova Scotia Tourism Culture & Heritage Culture Division, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.  Morgan received a BA in Literature from McGill University, a BFA in Sculpture and Extended Materials from the School of Visual Arts in NYC, and an MFA in Installation, from the University of Regina. Currently Kim Morgan is an Assistant Professor at NSCAD (Nova Scotia School of Art and Design) University in Halifax, Canada, where she teaches sculpture, installation, and public art. She is also a researcher at the Cineflux group.
  • Solomon Nagler‘s films have played across Canada, in the U.S., Europe and Asia at venues such the Centre Pompidou (Paris), L’Université Paris Panthéon Sorbonne and Lincoln Center in New York. His work has been featured in Retrospectives at the Winnipeg Cinematheque in August of 2004, at the Excentris Cinema in Montreal in August of 2007, the Festival De Le Cinéma Different in Paris in December 2005 and 2007, The Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers and The Canadian Film Institute in 2009. Originally from Winnipeg, Solomon Nagler currently lives in Halifax where he is a professor of film production at NSCAD University (Nova Scotia College of Art and Design), Canada.
  • Martha Radice.I am a social anthropologist in Dalhousie University’s Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology (Nova Scotia, Canada) whose work focuses on the social, spatial and cultural dynamics of cities. I use ethnographic methods to investigate people’s activities and interactions in urban public spaces such as commercial streets, public libraries and  multiethnic neighbourhoods. My research interests include public sociability; immigration, ethnicity and interethnic relations; diversity and inclusion; urban material culture and art;  the production of space; and  theories and practices of cosmopolitanism. I am often involved in interdisciplinary and applied research. The paper I co-wrote for ISEA 2011 stems from a new collaborative project with Kim Morgan (Sculpture) and Solomon Nagler (Film) at NSCAD University. I have previously conducted evaluations of social inclusion in high schools and police-community relations in the UK. My publications include Feeling Comfortable?: The Urban Experience of Anglo-Montrealers (Presses de l’Université Laval, 2000), book chapters on commercial streets, cosmopolitanism and multicultural heritage in urban public space and the co-edited book, with Xavier Leloup, Les nouveaux territoires de l’ethnicité (Presses de l’Université Laval, 2008).                                                  dal.ca/faculty/arts/sociology-social-anthropology.html

Full text (PDF)  p. 1984-1989