The Cage is a Stage is a multi-compositional project comprised of two gallery exhibitions, a billboard and a performance at the Blackwood Gallery and an evening-length performance that premieres onstage at The Power Plant’s Harbourfront Centre Theatre.

CO-CURATORS: JULIA PAOLI, ASSOCIATE CURATOR, THE POWER PLANT; CHRISTINE SHAW, DIRECTOR/CURATOR, BLACKWOOD GALLERY

The Power Plant and Blackwood Gallery are pleased to present The Cage is a Stage, a co-commissioned project by Los Angeles-based artist Emily Mast. In her choreographed performances and installations, Mast incorporates bodies, movement, sound, and light as live sculptural material. Her work emerges from collaborative practices that celebrate their ambiguous position between art, theatre, poetry and dance. Mast often allows her work to unfold in chapters, presenting iterations and offshoots of the same piece in various contexts. This strategy comes from her longstanding interest in the imprecision of language, the unreliability of memory, and the value of inaccuracy as they relate to systems of belief in contemporary society.

The Cage is a Stage is a multi-compositional project comprised of two gallery exhibitions, a billboard and a performance at the Blackwood Gallery and an evening-length performance that premieres onstage at Harbourfront Centre Theatre. 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 put forth in his essay “Why Look at Animals” (1977), 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, the 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,” thus 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 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. The Cage is a Stage was developed in collaboration with and performed by Heyward Bracey, Kiara Gamboa, Garrett Hallman, Angelina Prendergast and Joe Seely.


Emily Mast (born in Akron, Ohio, 1976) recently staged a solo “choreographed exhibition” called Missing Missing at La Ferme du Buisson in Noisiel, France, and an 18-part roving procession of performances based on the poetry of Joan Brossa at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). In addition, her video, installation, and performance work was part of the Hammer Museum’s Made in L.A. Biennial (2014). Mast’s performances have been exhibited at venues including: China Art Objects Galleries, Los Angeles (2015); Mona Bismarck American Center, Paris (2015); Silencio, Paris (2015); Night Gallery, Los Angeles (2014); Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Project Space, New York (2013); Public Fiction, Los Angeles (2012); REDCAT, Los Angeles (2012); MUHKA, Antwerp (2011); Human Resources, Los Angeles (2010) and Performa, New York (2009).

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