© Susanna Crum, 2008-2019

The Heart of the Park, 2012

After graduating from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, the acclaimed author Flannery O’Connor resided in Iowa City, and included its City Park as a location in her first novel, Wise Blood. In this novel, Enoch Emery, a park-haunting voyeur, mirrors O’Connor’s own investigations of the site. Using Enoch as my guide, I created blueprints, maps, and a video, which reveal further discoveries of the site’s history, and present a reinterpretation of seemingly disparate layers of fact and fiction. These three pieces from my multimedia project,The Heart of the Park, work to expose, preserve, and interpret the many layers of social history, fact, and fiction within City Park.


In each of my projects, I use a set of customized interpretive devices, which integrate antique and 21st century technology. I created the video Fight or Flight with a pocket video camera inside a camera obscura, an embodied camera that represents both an early metaphor for the human eye and a 19th century symbol of voyeurism. Similarly, laser-cut wood type and cyanotype blueprints function as artifacts of my research and engage with commercial image-making technologies of the past.


While the contemporary archive claims depoliticized and anonymous reasons and methods for preservation, my hybrid practice creates a role for the subjective, idiosyncratic archivist, who suffuses factual research with myth-making. The Heart of the Park is one glimpse into an ongoing collection of interpreted sites, in which I attempt to prevent the loss of local histories, and enact the inevitable chain of reinterpretations of site.

Flight or Flight, 2012
Video in projection chamber, 6:02

Art Building West Gallery

University of Iowa, 2012