Nicole Miller: A Sound, a Signal, the Circus

March 25, 2022 - August 1, 2022
Garen Gallery

View the exhibition trailer >>

Known for her evocative videos and multimedia installations, California-based artist and filmmaker Nicole Miller frequently addresses themes such as race, translation, and the politics of representation. At the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, she is creating a major new commissioned project that explores and expands an understanding of synesthesia as it relates to the Black experience in the United States through an intricate choreography of sound, moving image, and laser-light animation. Titled A Sound, a Signal, the Circus, this immersive installation engages with the sonic, the somatic, and aspects of spectacle to enact what the artist describes as a kind of “ecstatic translation.” The exhibition will be on view March 25 to July 25, 2022.

Miller’s 24-channel soundscape will direct viewers through the gallery. It is composed of recorded and appropriated sounds and music, along with edited excerpts from interviews that she conducted in St. Louis in the summer and fall of 2021. In these interviews, poets, dancers, educators, and teenagers of color share a range of perspectives—personal, political, philosophical, and creative—often drawing connections to their own bodies. Punctuating this sonic tapestry will be choreographed laser light and video footage of performers rehearsing, many of whom are preparing for roles in various circuses.

Notions of embodiment and articulation are common threads throughout Miller’s work. In recent years, a core aspect of her practice has involved collaborating with young people, especially youth of color. The exhibition at the Kemper Art Museum builds on previous video installations that examine how societal pressures and the violence of racism condition the experience of growing up in the United States, including how youth are perceived.

By inserting the voices of those who are just figuring out how to tell their stories into the context of an art museum, Miller challenges us to see these young people not through the lens of latent potential (or lack thereof) but as “brilliant in the here and now.”

Miller is also attuned to performances and performers, from renowned artists to those who are new to their craft. She gravitates to spaces of practice and rehearsal, and frames expressive articulation as an ongoing process rather than a point of arrival. The sound of disembodied voices in Miller’s new soundscape—each with their own observations and inflections—and the sight of bodies moving through space sets up the potential for a heightened consciousness of one’s own body while provoking questions about whose bodies are valued in society, whose voices are amplified, and whose lives are cherished.

Nicole Miller: A Sound, a Signal, the Circus is organized for the Kemper Art Museum by Meredith Malone, curator. The work is produced in collaboration with Zak Forrest, laserist and cinematographer; John Somers, composer, sound design, and mixing; and M. Issac Ennis, piano performance.

Learn More

View the March 26 Artist Talk >>

Read the exhibition brochure >>

Read the press release >>

Read the Hyperallergic review >>

Listen to the story on St. Louis Public Radio >>

View the feature on HEC-TV >>


Major support for exhibitions at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum is provided by the William T. Kemper Foundation. Generous support for this exhibition is provided by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Additional support is provided by Emily and Teddy Greenspan; Fondation Foyer; the Mass Family Charitable Fund; the Olson Family Fund; public funds from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; the Ken and Nancy Kranzberg Fund; the Hortense Lewin Art Fund; and members of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum.

About the artist

Nicole Miller (b. 1982, Tucson, Arizona) earned her bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles in 2005 and her master’s in fine arts from the Roski School of the Arts at the University of Southern California in 2009. Miller’s work has been widely exhibited both nationally and internationally, including solo shows at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Ulrich Museum of Art in Wichita; the Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson; Ballroom Marfa in Texas; The High Line in New York; the Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève; LAXART and the California African American Museum, both in Los Angeles; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Miller is associate professor in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of California, San Diego.


To request a tour of the exhibition for your class or group, please email kempereducation@wustl.edu.

Image credit

Dancer Michael Jones filmed by Nicole Miller for A Sound, a Signal, the Circus, 2021 (still). Mixed-media installation. Image courtesy of the artist and Kristina Kite Gallery, Los Angeles.