Kim Morgan: Blood and Breath, Skin and Dust

16 September – 4 December, 2022

Kim Morgan, Blood Galaxy, detail, 2017

Kim Morgan: Blood and Breath, Skin and Dust focuses on eight years of interdisciplinary artist Kim Morgan’s research and artistic production employing electron microscopy. Immersive installations, sculptural objects, and sound and video works reflect this artist’s interest in using advanced technologies to explore materiality and the body. Informed by the experience of vibrant matter at the microscopic level these intriguing works offer encounters in human-scaled space and time, and an opportunity to bridge the gap between science, medicine, and art.

Morgan began exploring scanning electron microscopy (SEM) at Dalhousie University’s scientific imaging lab in 2014. Through a HEALS Artist’s Residency, Morgan developed Blood Group, a permanent sculptural installation using SEM images of blood provided by medical students, family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances from diverse backgrounds (with appropriate permissions for their use). Convinced of the expressive potential in using magnified images of blood and other bodily sourced materials to consider physical and socio-cultural realities, Morgan continued to experiment with a range of materials and methods of presentation, expanding her imagery to include scans of body dust, lint, ash, and skin. 

Since early 2019, Morgan has been working with curator and conceptual collaborator Susan Gibson Garvey on offsite projects, preludes to this solo exhibition, specifically designed to engage new audiences in non-gallery locations. These projects, titled Blood Portraits, Dust Disruptors, and Exhale and Relic, were workshopped, installed, and/or presented as pop-up interventions across the campus during the past 18 months. They have been reconfigured (or, if temporary events, recorded), and included in the solo exhibition together with new or adapted gallery installations and objects. 

Although this project was proposed well before the advent of Covid19 in Canada, the same kind of scanning technology (SEM) used in the artworks has also provided those striking images of the coronavirus in everyday media — images that are often artificially enhanced with colour, even though electron microscopy only “sees” in monochrome. The pandemic has made us acutely aware of the role of medical science in understanding threats to human health, and of the social disparities that a virus spread exacerbates. 

Informing the physical works are philosophical interests shared by the artist and curator, particularly with regard to phenomenology, feminism, concepts of the informe, and aspects of New Materialism. Inevitably, given the bodily sourced material, these works may both attract and repel those who encounter them. They offer ways to explore conflicting feelings about our personal and collective capabilities and vulnerabilities, and occasions for thoughtful engagement in the matter of being human in the “mattering” universe.

Individual works have received support from Artpace San Antonio, Arts Nova Scotia, Dalhousie Medical School, and Ferno Canada. The exhibition’s presentation at Dalhousie Art Gallery has been funded by Arts Nova Scotia, the Canada Council for the Arts, and Halifax Regional Municipality.