Over the next several weeks, we will be posting interviews with artists currently featured in the Gallery’s Writing Topography exhibition. These interviews were conducted by Rebecca Goodine, a university student participating in an internship at the Gallery. These interviews present artists talking about themselves and their work in their own words. Interviews were conducted with the artists by email, and have been lightly edited for grammar and flow (occasionally, questions and responses have been removed). At the end of interviews, we’ve included some links to provide a bit more information about a topic or theme from the interview; these links have been chosen by us, and were not provided by the artists.
Photo: Roger Smith
“ […] you can map the history of the range light visually and physically; you can see the wear and tear of the original structure, the vandalism, the graffiti, the rotting wood, the peeling paint, the bullet holes, the smell of the tarred roof. It is a complete sensual experience – at times repulsive.”
Please tell us a bit about yourself and your artistic practice.
I’m a visual artist working in sculpture installation and extended media*. For the last ten years I have been exploring the process of cross-disciplinary collaborations through the creation of public art projects in partnership with scientists, engineers and other artists. Within this framework, my work addresses the impact of technology on the human body, our perceptions of time and space, and the shifting boundaries between the private and the public.
I was born and raised in Regina, Saskatchewan. Currently I live in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where I am an Associate Professor at NSCAD University, teaching sculpture, installation and public art. I received a B.A. in Literature from McGill University, a BFA in Sculpture/Extended Media from the School of Visual Arts in NYC, and an MFA in Installation, from the University of Regina. My work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and has received numerous awards. Range Light Borden-Carleton PEI won the Nova Scotia Masterworks Award 2012, and was included in the Oh Canada exhibition at Mass MoCA, USA.
How would you describe your work in the exhibition?
It is a site-responsive sculpture/installation which is reconfigured each time it is installed in a different location. It is a new type of memorial.
Can you tell us about the process of creating the work in the exhibition?
It’s a latex rubber imprint/cast of the interior and exterior of a de-commissioned range light from the town of Borden-Carleton, Prince Edward Island. It was cast on location with the help of a crew. There are seven layers of latex rubber with one layer of mosquito netting in the middle. It took 3-4 weeks to cast and 100 gallons of liquid rubber latex.*
What was the inspiration for this work?
I’m from Saskatchewan where the majority of the wooden grain elevators have been torn down or replaced by cement silos. These elevators were landmarks for the numerous townships and travelers across the prairies. Of course they had a practical function storing grain for transportation and exportation, but the elevators were also symbolic icons for a rural way of life when Saskatchewan was proudly known as the “breadbasket of the world.” In consequence of technology, globalization and urbanization, this way of life is rare now and many of towns, like the elevators, have disappeared. When I moved to Nova Scotia in 2008, I found a similar situation happening with the lighthouses and the communities in which they were situated. For me it was an easy shift from abandoned grain elevators to the de-commissioning of the lighthouses in my new home.
What was the development process like from your initial idea to the finished work?
The work is very process oriented and very labor intensive. As a site-responsive work it continues to be so.
What is it you hope for the viewer to discover or consider through this work?
I hope the work speaks for itself. The title is an epitaph. There is pathos about this piece that even if you’re not connected to this particular structure or place it leaves space for contemplating the things that give meaning to our lives and mark the interior/exterior of our experiences.
How does your work connect with broader themes?
It connects to the broader themes of identity, community, technology, memory, and desire. And of course our relationship to change. How inevitable change is in our lives and how uncomfortable it can be.
You write that with Range Light, Borden-Carleton PEI 2010 you “have created a cultural artifact out of a dead monument.” How does this work relate to your broader interest in examining themes of perception, time and space?
I interpret the Writing Topography exhibition, as explorations of mapping and its various manifestations. I am interested in mapping experiences, how they shift, fold in time and space, and how this informs us. I started casting architecture in 2001 during my graduate studies in Saskatchewan. Along with my studio work I was reading about phenomenology, Henri Lefebvre’s The Production of Space and Gilles Deleuze’s ideas about “the fold.” These writings influenced my work and still do. I cast the interior of the doctor’s residence at the Fort Qu’Appelle Sanatorium. It was also abandoned derelict and haunted. In addition, I cast a nurse’s dorm room at the Weyburn Mental Hospital. It too was haunted. Both institutions had been revered for innovative (and controversial) medical research. Now the residue of controversial and abusive practices has lead to the dismantling and rejection of both intuitions. With these earlier works I was experimenting with latex rubber, capturing architectural details and elements, plus the energies within the walls. I took these maps/skins and reconfigured them in different locations changing the configuration according to the space but always keeping the indexical quality of the original structure. These skins became new entities but were still marked by the past.
On viewing my work in the Writing Topography exhibition, you can map the history of the range light visually and physically; you can see the wear and tear of the original structure, the vandalism, the graffiti, the rotting wood, the peeling paint, the bullet holes, the smell of the tarred roof. It is a complete sensual experience – at times repulsive. With the range light, I was finally able to cast a complete building, both inside and out. For me this work is complete formally, with the potential for endless configurations and folds, responsive to both the viewer and to the installation site. It becomes its own entity. Here the mapping and tracing is a way of knowing and positioning ourselves in the world, whether we map the lines on someone’s face or the cracks on a sidewalk through movement. Surfaces are just points of departure. The inside and outside are never detached from each other – joined by a membrane, a skin, porous and mutable. They work together, informing each other. We know the inside from the outside and we know the outside from the inside. The range light is not just a lighthouse, just like a grain elevator is not just an elevator.
What is it about installation and sculpture art that appeals to you as a creative medium?
I’m interested in spatial relationships, material and form. And it is physical.
What does ‘creativity’ mean to you?
The ability to see beyond the obvious and to think, act and produce outside of “the box.”
What kinds of things do you find helpful as sources of inspiration?
Everything can be inspirational depending on the context – and my state of mind.
What advice do you have to give to new and aspiring artists?
Kim Morgan was born and raised in Saskatchewan. She received a BA in literature from McGill University (1988); a BFA in sculpture/installation from the School of Visual Arts, (New York City, 1992); and an MFA from the University of Regina (2004). She is an assistant professor teaching sculpture, installation, and public art at NSCAD University in Halifax, and a researcher at Cineflux, NSCAD University, a centre for interdisciplinary research in emerging cinema and media arts.
From 2005 to 2008, Morgan was the artist in residence for TRLabs (now TRTech), Regina, a tech research non-profit, where she collaborated with scientists and engineers to create interactive public artworks such as Data s p a c e d.
Her work has been exhibited in Canada, New York, and Europe. Range Light, Borden-Carleton 2010 was included in the 2013 Oh, Canada exhibition at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. Morgan is currently working on Tracing the City, Exploring the Private Experience of Public Art through Art and Anthropology, an interdisciplinary research project involving cinema, urban anthropology, and visual art funded by a SSHRC Research-Creation Grant.
About the Exhibition
Writing Topography runs September 26, 2015 through January 10, 2016. The exhibition is organized by the Beaverbrook Art Gallery and made possible with the generous support of the McCain Family, the Harrison McCain Foundation, and the McCain Foundation. Admission is FREE for Beaverbrook Art Gallery members and for children age six and under. More information on memberships and benefits can be found on our website at http://beaverbrookartgallery.org/en/support/membership.
Featured artists include: Robert Bean, Gerald Beaulieu, Jennifer Bélanger, Rémi Belliveau, Jordan Bennett, Kay Burns, Amanda Dawn Christie, Richard Davis, Leah Garnett, Pam Hall, Mark Igloliorte, Navarana Igloliorte, Ursula Johnson, Philippa Jones, Stephen Kelly, Eleanor King, Fenn Martin, Michael McCormack, Kim Morgan, Nigel Roe, Sara Roth, Anna Torma, Gerald Vaandering, and Kim Vose Jones.