Emily Blair, Michelle Illuminato, Phuong Nguyen: Invisible Places

  • ©,



    Invisible Places


Creation Year:



    Interactive Installation


    12 feet X 12 feet



Artist Statement:

    Next Question is a group of three artists who have been collaborating since 1994: Emily Blair, Michelle Illuminato, and Phuong Nguyen. Next Question is committed to involving the audience directly in the art – both in its development and, through interactivity, in the piece itself. Summaries of our work can be found on our Website (nextquestion.org).

    “Invisible Places,” our installation for SIGGRAPH’s N-Space, is part of a conceptual mapping project that took place in Buffalo, New York. Working in collaboration with women and girls in Buffalo, we examined the diverse ways in which women perceive and navigate urban space. Entitled “Two Degrees of Separation,” this project and accompanying installation were part of CEPA Gallery’s Unlimited Partnerships Series. “Two Degrees of Separation” included material from our earlier mapping project, the “South Side Atlas,” which took place in the South Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh. In symmetry with this previous work, we concentrated on the area of South Buffalo. Attention to these specific urban spaces allowed stories of women’s interactions with the city to emerge, yielding a mingling of narratives rather than essentializing generalizations. However, the project continually flowed beyond the borders of South Buffalo, as indeed had been the case in Pittsburgh.

    For we strive to keep our approach as flexible as possible. The question of how women navigate space is admittedly a broad one; its ambiguity allowed many points of entry for collaboration. In Buffalo, we worked with the Urban Girls, a group of middle school and high school poets who conducted their own interviews and composed new poetry about urban space, which they read on opening night at CEPA Gallery. Three of the girls also created an audio tour of places important to them, which is included in Invisible Places.

    The title “Two Degrees of Separation” reflects both the proximity between participants as well as that between Buffalo and Pittsburgh. It also describes the structure of the interactive installation, where specific stories were placed side by side. For the “Invisible Places” part of the project, we asked women and girls to talk about where they were most and least comfortable. By plugging headphones into jacks in a chalkboard, visitors can hear portions of the interviews and then add their own observations using chalk. For SIGGRAPH, we have added a computer component that allows visitors to share their thoughts regarding digital or online space. The narratives enhance, redirect, and contradict one another, yielding a variety of stories about how women experience space.

Affiliation Where Artwork Was Created:

    Next Question

Other Information:

    The Urban Girls who participated in “Two Degrees of Separation” are Aquila Alexander, Vanessa Blaylock, Moira Carman, Regina Ernst, Leslie Feldballe, Michelle Ferri, Dominique Gadley, Faith Houston, Shalona Hogue, Gretchen Kamke, Dominique Montgomery, Shari Rosario, Rebecca Sipos, Lydia Thornton, and Ashley Watkins. Their teacher is Suzanne Diffine. CEPA’s Unlimited Partnerships was supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Communication Workers of America, The John R. Oishei Foundation, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, and The New York State Council on the Arts.