Goshka Macuga microsites for the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
This post is a collaboration between Sarah Wambold and Marty Spellerberg. Sarah Wambold is a Denver-based project manager and documentary producer. Marty Spellerberg is an Austin-based interactive media designer/developer.
Goshka Macuga is the MCA Chicago’s 2013 Artist In Residence.
“Macuga’s work interweaves two strands that have helped define contemporary art in the last decade: artists’ increasing tendency toward historical and archival research and their growing interest in strategies of display and the dialogue between artistic and curatorial practice.”
— Dieter Roelstraete
Inspired by Hamburg Conversations on Art: Hamburg Comedy, a 1896 work German Jewish art historian Aby Warburg, Macuga’s residency project is to create a Chicago Comedy. But because the resulting work, likely to be a play, will not exist until the end of the term, the artist’s process is being documented and presented to the public as Preparatory Notes for a Chicago Comedy. Our team became involved as interactive media designers/developers.
With no artist on site—she’s in London—and no objects being produced in the early phases, how would museum visitors know there was, in fact, a residency taking place? We needed a physical manifestation or marker that would let the public know what was happening as it was happening.
In-Gallery iPad Kiosk
The artist was opposed to creating a object or an installation “as a placeholder,” so digital, with its ability to present a depth of information in a physically economical and engaging way, emerged as the best candidate. iPads as part of a title wall installation became the solution for a physical, onsite manifestation of the residency.
Early in the year, Macuga was joined by MCA Curator Dieter Roelstraete for a romp around the city, seeking to “excavate Chicago’s lesser-known histories, forgotten folktales, and best-kept secrets.” The material they generated became the basis for our presentation.
Since the artist’s notes were organized around places she visited around the city, we chose an interactive map interface. This provided an instantly relevant format: Onsite visitors are, by definition, present in Chicago and likely to relate to a map of the city. This also served to emphasize the project’s connection and relevance to the local community, a goal of the Museum’s residency program generally.
The technical solution was based on the technique demonstrated in Marty’s Integrating WordPress and Google Maps tutorial, which he previously used to create an in-gallery kiosk for the Chinese American Museum, Los Angeles.
We also wanted to put something online that could live-on once the residency itself is completed. We realized, over several discussions with the curator, that Macuga’s work would find its form in phases: Lateral research of canvassing Chicago; vertical research of deep dives at the Warburg Institute; production, likely to happen abroad; and a to-be-determined final presentation. The digital strategy would need to respond to each of these.
We recognized that the map interface would be inadequate for telling the rest of the story of the residency; as Macuga moved from research-based activities, some happening abroad, and into production, using a map to navigate the content would no longer make sense.
The Museum had a history of stand-alone project blogs, and we made the choice to continue that format in this case. The first thing we did was to consolidate the most recent blogs under a unified banner and feed, which improved the prospects for long-term maintenance, as well as providing added context for future researchers. But we also wanted to provide a unique feel specific to the here-and-now, so we designed a two-column landing page using the Packery layout library.
The project was driven by a core creative concept that came into view over a period of time, as the artist’s process revealed the characteristics of the artwork she is creating. By adopting an agile design and development methodology, our team was able to respond to the changing needs for the project mid-course. The result was a compelling, revealing and engaging presentation for Museum visitors both onsite and online.
Project Manager: Erika Hanner
Curator: Dieter Roelstraete
Content Creators: Michelle Puetz, Dieter Roelstraete, and Goshka Macuga
Posted January 2014