The Heart of the Park, 2012

The Heart of the Park works to expose, preserve, and interpret the many layers of social history, fact, and fiction within Iowa City’s City Park. This exhibition is a result of archival research, interviews, and on-site investigation. As a guide, I followed the path of Enoch Emery, a park-haunting voyeur featured in Flannery O’Connor’s first novel, Wise Blood, which she wrote after graduating from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Details of O’Connor’s fictional version of City Park, in Chapter 5 of Wise Blood, as well as Enoch’s relationship with the park, led to further discoveries regarding the park’s history, and ultimately, a reinterpretation of these seemingly disparate layers of fact and fiction.    Throughout my projects, I use a set of customized interpretive devices, which integrate antique and 21st century technology. For example, The Heart of the Park features a video projection produced with a handmade camera obscura video recorder. Similarly, hand-pulled lithographs and cyanotype blueprints function as artifacts of my research and engage with commercial image-making technologies of the past.    While the contemporary archive claims depoliticized and anonymous reasons and methods for preservation, my hybrid practice creates a role for the subjective, idiosyncratic archivist, who suffuses factual research with myth-making. The Heart of the Park is one glimpse into an ongoing collection of interpreted sites, in which I attempt to prevent the loss of local histories, and enact the inevitable chain of reinterpretations of site. In addition to issues of historical preservation and narrative, I am interested in my role as a voyeur in such projects. In this document, I will explore the themes of voyeurism in The Heart of the Park, from O’Connor’s working methods, to Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of the dialogic imagination, to the history of the camera obscura.

I use print media, photography, sculpture, interviews, sound, and video as tools to investigate, interpret, and record the layers of history stored within specific sites. As I gather individual histories from local residents and archives, I work to create access to a collective memory of a location. In response to the historical archive, my work emphasizes the continuous, social process of the interpretation - and reinterpretation - of place.

I use a set of customized tools that mediate both my investigations and the final presentation of my process. Devices such as a handmade camera obscura video-recorder and digitally-printed stereographs combine antique and digital technologies, and allow me to create interactive environments that provide multiple modes of access to a collective memory of a site.



the pleiades: field drawing I, 2013