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(C) 2019 Miami University College of Creative Arts, All Rights Reserved

Boats against the Current 

Tiffany Carbonneau

Architectural video projection

May 3 and 4 from dusk until 10:30pm

Southwest corner of Harrison Hall, along Slant Walk

Boats against the Current is an original public artwork commissioned specifically for Miami's campus by artist Tiffany Carbonneau. Utilizing projection mapping technology, which enables the projection of moving images onto irregular architectural surfaces, this piece explores issues of social inequality and educational access through the imagery and legacy of the McGuffey Readers housed in Miami's special collections. This work will spark curiosity in visitors and passersby through monumental scale and technological spectacle, but its site-specific evocation of this important social issue will also hopefully prompt dialogue and engagement in public space.

This work is curated by Annie Dell'Aria, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Art History, and supported by the College of Creative Arts, the Department of Art (including the VASE Fund), and the Humanities Center. Elizabeth Grace Huddleston ('19) provided archival research as a Humanities Center Research Apprentice, in partnership with the Walter Havighurst Special Collections & University Archives at King Library and the McGuffey House and Museum.










Artist Talk

Thursday May 2nd at 5:50pm in Art Building, Room 100

Artist Statement

On July 4th, 1776, the Second Continental Congress ratified the United States Declaration of Independence. Included in this paramount document, was the radical notion that “the pursuit of happiness” was an inalienable human right, inspiring millions of people, then and now, to leave their ancestral homes to find what they believed would be a better life in the United States. These Americans dreamt of a place where one could find financial stability, social mobility, and freedom from ethnic, political, or religious persecution. Their immigrant dreams became the American Dream.


As the son of Scottish-Irish parents who immigrated to the United States in 1774, William Holmes McGuffey held a strong belief that education and religion were essential to the building of a stable, healthy United States. McGuffey’s Readers became some of this country's earliest and most significant textbooks. They were used by millions of students for more than a century to learn how to read, develop moral values, and cultivate an American identity.1  Americans today continue to look to education as an opportunity to achieve financial stability and social mobility. Unfortunately, broadening income gaps have led to a corresponding education gap, where wealthy Americans can more often afford quality early education, private tutoring, elite primary and secondary school tuition, and costly higher education.  In addition, the lack of public policy equalizing funding for public schools has led to disparities amongst the rich and poor in test scores, college completion rates, and access to early education.2  


Created specifically for the Oxford campus of Miami University, Boats against the Current is an architectural video projection that combines archival imagery found in William McGuffey’s Readers, historical still and moving images, and animated modern data to highlight the effects of income disparity on equal access to education and the ability to achieve the American Dream. The title of this work is borrowed from the final sentences of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel, The Great Gatsby, in which the main character’s roots in poverty and struggles for financial success in adulthood illustrate Fitzgerald’s own disillusionment with the American Dream: “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning—— So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”3


  1. William Smith, “William Holmes McGuffey,” McGuffey House and Museum, Miami University, 1973, https://miamioh.edu/cca/mcguffey-museum/wh-mcguffey/.

  2. John Jerrim and Linsey Macmillan, “Income Inequality, Intergenerational Mobility, and the Great Gatsby Curve: Is Education the Key?” Social Forces 94, issue 2 (December 2015): 505–533, https://doi.org/10.1093/sf/sov075.

  3. F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (New York: Scribner, 1925).

Artist Bio

Tiffany Carbonneau is a 2011 Efroymson Contemporary Arts Fellow, and an Associate Professor of Fine Art at Indiana University Southeast where she founded and heads the Digital Art program. Tiffany’s work has been exhibited internationally at The University of Hamburg, Move Light Festival in Lodz, Poland, Infecting the City Public Art Festival in Cape Town, South Africa, and The Toronto Urban Film Festival in Toronto, Ontario. Nationally, her architectural projections have been exhibited during IN Light IN: Indianapolis Light Festival, Fountain Art Fair at The 69th Regiment Armory in New York City, Inlight Richmond in Richmond, Virginia, Currents New Media Festival in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Free State Film and Art Festival in Lawrence, Kansas, as well as other traditional and non-traditional venues across the United States. 

Over Continents and Oceans

site-specific architectural projection, T.J. Sokol Hall, Crete, Nebraska, supported by Doane University, the Doane University Department of Art and the Rall Gallery, 2018

Between Here and There 

Lodz, Move Light Festival, Architectural Projection, supported by Lux Pro Monument Foundation, Lodz, Poland, 2012