Kim Morgan: Exhale and Relic

9 June – 10 July, 2022

Kim Morgan, installation view of Exhale and Relic at the McCulloch Museum, 2022.

Each of us is enveloped by a microbial cloud of our own exhalations (1) and by a haze of our own skin flakes. (2)

Temporarily installed in the McCulloch Museum of Natural history, Exhale and Relic continue interdisciplinary artist Kim Morgan’s explorations of the body’s materiality. Relic presents the glowing image of a human skin flake magnified 6,000 times through scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Approaching the image activates Exhale, a sound installation layered out of many “sighs” collected by Morgan from friends and acquaintances.

Life is full of things that make us sigh, but not all sighs are sad. We might sigh with relief or contentment. Or love. The quality and frequency of our sighs is somewhat culture-bound—oy vey!. However, scientific research indicates that we all sigh regularly, about once every five minutes, as a necessary reset of our breathing mechanism. The deeper inhalation-exhalation of a sigh expels not only CO2 and other products of the blood-breath cycle, but also microbes, particles, and toxic matter. It may be that we sigh or we die. (3)

Exhale is presented together with the plain pine box and glowing image of Relic, which may call to mind our final exhalations. In religious terms, a “relic” is some surviving part of a revered person’s body (or material object closely associated with that person) that is believed to bear some remnant of the deceased’s spirit or power. Morgan’s magnified skin flake may suggest a similar, though secular, potential – perhaps the power of a work experienced as both science and art, and that in contemporary terms may be thought of as “vibrant matter.” (4) A sigh may also be thought of in these terms: an audible exhalation that carries both material and emotional freight.

Locating these particular art works—essentially human traces—among the stuffed birds, coral collections, preserved crustaceans, and other relics of nature in a museum of Natural History, affirms that humans are neither separate from, nor superior to, the natural world, but intimately and in every way a part of it.

- Susan Gibson Garvey


(2) How many skin cells do we shed in a day?
(3) “Healthy adults sigh about once every five minutes. If you don’t sigh and re-open the alveoli, you could become hypoxic and die.”
(4) A term examined by Jane Bennet in Vibrant Matter: a Political Ecology of Things, Duke University Press, 2010


Location and Hours:

McCulloch Museum, Dalhousie University Life Science Centre
1355 Oxford Street | Hours: Monday to Friday, 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM

The McCulloch Museum is located in Dalhousie University's Life Sciences Centre. The Museum can be accessed through the Wallace McCain Learning Commons. From the main entrance doors, walk straight through and exit the Learning Commons, and turn right. The Museum is located on the right, further down the hallway.

Presented by the Dalhousie Art Gallery with funding support from Arts Nova Scotia, Canada Council for the Arts, and the city of Halifax.