Katie Hamill’s interactive art installation I Was There opens at The Cap October 26.

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I Was There invites audiences to engage directly by sharing their relationships and experiences, one Post-It Note at a time.

Matt Carter 
Katie Hamill’s interactive art installation I Was There opens Oct. 26 at The Cap.

The identity of any municipality relies, to a certain extent, on the practice of myth making. “Our streets are clean! Our parks are safe!,” and so forth. That’s all part of the game though essentially nothing more than branding and marketing designed to attract commerce and to create a sense of security and comfort for those who live there, or may someday live there. But there is a difference between a manufactured identity and true meaning. Between imagination and experience. Branded myths look good on paper, but the lived experience is something altogether different.  

Next week, Fredericton-based doctoral student and visual artist Katie Hamill will open a new public art project at The Cap. Her work, I Was There, takes the form of a large painted map of the city’s downtown core and by way of Post-It Notes and thumb tacks, invites audiences to share their relationship with the places and spaces around us. 

“I’m a PhD student studying human rights education and intersectionality, and I spend a lot of time thinking about the ways that places and spaces make us feel, and how that is impacted by our identity and how that impacts our identity,” Kamill explains. “By making the lived experience of folks in downtown Fredericton visual, I hope to showcase how spaces and places make individual folks feel and draw attention to which corners of the city are ‘safer’ than others.”

Hamill’s I Was There was directly inspired by a Concordia University research project called Queering the Map, and is intended to highlight the range of connection and meaning that can be placed on a specific location. By encouraging her audience to reflect and share their own personal connection with say, a city block, a street corner or a doorway, I Was There will reveal the differences that exist in our own interpretations of something we naturally take for granted. 

“I hope to foster a therapeutic release for those who participate,” said Hamill. “Writing down, ‘my heart was broken here’ or ‘I’m harassed every time I cross this street’ or ‘this is my favourite tree in the city and I come here when I’m sad’, anonymously might feel good!”

I Was There opens at The Cap, October 26 with an opening reception 6-8 p.m. The piece will remain on display until mid-November. 

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