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Safety Cages puts artists behind bars

Watch for the caged people among the Nocturne crowds.


In Ken Burke’s wearable art piece Safety Cages, four people wearing welded steel cages will make their ways through Nocturne crowds, responding to the movements of the crowd and each other. The cages take four different designs, each cumbersome in varying degrees.

Burke calls a cage in a standard birdcage-type form “a little passive,” while another he describes as a sea anenome—a narrow tube with tentacles dangling—is “a little passive-aggressive.” Each effects the wearer’s movement and interaction with the audience. Some of the four cage-wearers are dancers, “interpreting the cages through their movement.” Another cage takes a globe-like form, while Burke describes the fourth as a “corset” that moves inwards, creating a “constricting” form, intruding on the performer’s space rather than the public’s.

Burke came to the idea after several years of living with his partner’s young children, who are on the autism spectrum, which changed his ideas of personal space and physical distance.

“They need more personal space, but also, there’s a sense of safety to being enclosed...quite often, we interpret being enclosed as if we’re being caged,” Burke explains. “We all need personal space in different ways—sometimes we need much, sometimes we need the comfort of a protected area.”

Burke clarifies, “This isn’t a disability-awareness piece—that’s a jumping-off point for the idea, it speaks to this, but it doesn’t just speak to this.” This is Burke’s first Nocturne piece, and he’s excited to interact with the public in it. “I love the whole idea of using public space and changing the way that people use that public space that we’re in in the city.”

Nocturne piece 103, moving around the city

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