Laurel Hart is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Art Education at Concordia University. She has presented research internationally, and has exhibited digital art, installation, photography, and relational art works across Canada. Laurel obtained her Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education from the University of British Columbia, and is a certified teacher. Her recent work includes community education, grass-roots organizations, research centers and museums. While teaching, she maintains a concurrent ongoing practice as an artist and researcher. She uses art for social change, focusing on equality, enriching cultural production, and nurturing community and voice within the urban environment.
Virtual Urban Limbo: Five projects highlight the path to producing virtual spaces that teach art, local history and engage culture in Montreal
Follow the path of an artist/teacher/researcher over five years as her practice guides her to the malleable spaces in-between virtual and physical/geographic manifestations of urban places and experience. These ‘limbo’ spaces blur boundaries between reality and fantasy, stranger and friend, real and unreal, while interconnecting physical/virtual experiences with memory. From the indefinite and evolving nature of such spaces comes possibility: to circumvent social and locational boundaries; to open community dialogues; and to create new opportunities and connections across physical and social strata. Artistic production, informal/formal education and research, community and cultural creation move between virtual/physical environments while occupying in-between spaces. I present five projects/experiences over five years: First, ‘Virtual Art City,’ a web-based artwork and educational tool inhabits nebulous spaces of digital art ownership by employing a photomontage crafted from hundreds of creative commons images as a ‘virtual city’ map for exploring social/cultural spaces of digital arts and the urban environment. Second, ‘I am the Future Ghost,’ a walk-through art installation functions as a virtual microcosm of Griffintown’s past and present identities, sharing the spirit of the neighborhood and residents’ experiences through oral history stations, projection, music, photography, illusion, and sculptural instillation. Third, as Digital Projects Coordinator at the Center for Oral History and Digital Storytelling I worked with Steven High to help students and center affiliates create map mash-ups and geo-located mobile mediascapes for disseminating oral histories in artful/interactive digital means. Fourth, Night-Lights, a relational artwork that acts as a catalyst for community dialogue by establishing a virtual ‘safe’ space connected to posters displaying life-advice from Montrealers. Lastly, the transition of my ten year photography practice into mobile photography, which brought with it changes in craftsmanship, publishing immediacy, rationality, and meta-content that led to new developments in art practice and new methods of research and analysis.