The Cage is a Stage
Blackwood Gallery, 3359 Mississauga Road, UTM
Time: Jun 22nd, 9:00 am End: Sep 18th, 5:00 pm
The Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) presents:
Emily Mast: The Cage is a Stage
June 22 - September 18, 2016
Co-curated by Julia Paoli and Christine Shaw
By scrutinizing animality, the project examines some of the deep-seated compulsions of the human species, such as the need to control, tame, punish, and play. Mast constructs a landscape of stylized vignettes in order to expand on ideas that John Berger puts forth in his essay "Why Look at Animals," in which he compares zoos to art galleries. Stating that each cage acts as a frame around the animal inside, he proposes that visitors stroll from cage to cage in the zoo much like they stroll from artwork to artwork in an exhibition. Like a theatre set, zoo décor is pure illusion, and what is outside of these delusory environments therefore holds the promise of being "real." As a result, what's inside becomes a fictionalized account of the "natural," revealing more about who we are as storytellers than the subject of the story itself.
During the development of her project Mast researched both animal captivity and human confinement. She conducted interviews with animal experts, including a zoo curator, an anthrozoologist (who studies the interaction between humans and animals) and a telepathic interspecies communicator. At the same time, she examined emotional expression in animals, the affective bonds between humans and animals, and the intersections of speciesism, racism, and sexism. To highlight her findings, she cast a core group of performers to physically interpret and embody her integrative points of interest. Her cast is comprised of a method actor who specializes in emulating ape movement, a Butoh dancer who explores animal and human social psychology, a ballerina turned cirque performer, an artist who works with the animal/human gaze, and a child actor and horse fanatic. In her collaborative work with them, Mast has generated scores that serve as "frames" in which to explore and examine both the political implications of marginalization and the behaviour of humans through a cultural understanding of animal nature.
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________________________________________ ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The Cage is a Stage is presented in partnership with The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery and is co-curated by Julia Paoli, Associate Curator at The Power Plant and Christine Shaw, Director/Curator at the Blackwood Gallery. The Blackwood Gallery is supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Department of Visual Studies, University of Toronto Mississauga. Funding for additional staff support made possible through the Young Canada Works in Heritage Organizations program, Department of Canadian Heritage. The Canadian Museums Association administers the museum component of the YCW program on behalf of the Department of Canadian Heritage.