London-based artist Goshka Macuga’s residency project for the MCA Chicago, titled a Chicago Comedy, is inspired by Hamburg Conversations on Art: Hamburg Comedy, a 1896 work by German Jewish art historian Aby Warburg. Because the resulting work, likely to be a play, would not exist until the end of the residency term, the residency project team’s challenge was to make the residency visible to the public. The artist preferred not to create an object or an installation to represent the residency, so digital, with its ability to present a depth of information in a physically economical and engaging way, emerged as the best candidate.
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.
In-Gallery iPad Kiosk
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 and relatable format: Onsite visitors—tourists and locals alike—are likely to be familiar with 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.
We also wanted a piece that could inform our online audience and serve as a archive for the residency project. 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 comprising 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 whole 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 this project, so we designed a two-column landing page.
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.
Producer and Project Manager (digital component)
Designer and Developer: Marty Spellerberg
Residency Project Manager: Erika Hanner
Curator: Dieter Roelstraete
Content Creators: Michelle Puetz, Dieter Roelstraete, and Goshka Macuga
Content Coordinator: Marian Oman
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.