Chapter 10. Geographies of the Imagination: Engaging Audiences and Participants in Collaborative Interdisciplinary Gallery Installations

Lydia Nakashima Degarrod

Lydia Nakashima Degarrod is a cultural anthropologist and a visual artist who creates interdisciplinary works that combine ethnographic research and visual art. She has received numerous awards for her work, including from the Wing Luke Memorial Museum of Art, Ministry of Culture of Chile, Harvard University, the California Council of the Humanities, and the Center for Art and Public Life at the California College of the Arts. She is working on a book about the internal images of migration based on her installation Geographies of the Imagination, exhibited during an art residency at the California College of the Arts.


Geographies of the Imagination is a multimedia and interdisciplinary installation that I designed and created with the collaboration of nine political exiles living in the Bay Area of San Francisco, California. The installation, shown at the Oliver Art Center Gallery from October 27, 2008 to November 23, 2008, aimed at depicting internal images of exile after thirty years of the immigrants having resided in the United States. I made the installation over a period of 16 months while I was Artist in Residence at the Center for Art and Public Life at the California College of the Arts from June 2007 to October 2008. The project was funded by the California Story Fund of the California Council for the Humanities and by the Center for Art and Public Life of the California College of the Arts.


The public exhibit of Geographies of the Imagination was successful in terms of audience attendance, and by the demonstrated public engagement with the installation. The greater effect of this form of popular research occurred among the exiles’ participants themselves throughout the making of the installation and through their viewing of it at the public exhibit. In both of these processes the immigrants engaged in reflections on identity, exile and belonging.


In this chapter, I will present the process of making this form of popular research by starting with the methodology used and its background, followed by the production of the installation, its public display, the reactions of the audiences and ending with my reflections on the findings.


Visit the exhibit at: www.NakashimaDegarrod.com