Why Look at Cages? An inter-disciplinary forum on human and animal captivity and questions of social control.

Friday, July 22, 10am - 5pm Jackman Humanities Institute & Blackwood Gallery, UTM

Presented by the Blackwood Gallery & Animals in the Law and Humanities Working Group

These talks are FREE and open to the public.

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition The Cage is a Stage, on view at the Blackwood Gallery from June 22 - September 18, 2016.

Emily Mast, The Cage is a Stage (rehearsal), 2016. Photo: Soyoung Shin.

Forum: Why Look at Cages?
Friday, July 22, 10–5pm
Jackman Humanities Institute & University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM)
Presented by the Blackwood Gallery & Animals in the Law and Humanities

Drawing from John Berger’s 1977 essay, Why Look at Animals?, this one-day event examines the juxtapositions and intersections of human and animal, with speakers from across disciplines including sociology, law, music, and filmmaking.

Two texts will be circulated to registered participants in advance of the event:
• John Berger's "Why Look at Animals?," from About Looking, 1977.
• Craig W.J. Minogue's "Human Rights and Life as an Attraction in a Correctional Theme Park," from the Journal of Prisoners on Prisons (Vol 12), 2003.

Roundtable Discussion #1: Each cage is a frame round the animal inside it
10am–12pm, Jackman Humanities Institute

How does captivity (of animals, of humans) become a stage for questions of social control? With presentations by Abbas Akhavan (artist, Toronto), Mitchell Akiyama (composer and scholar, York University), Stefan Dolgert (Social Sciences, Brock University), Columba Gonzalez (Anthropology, University of Toronto), Liz Marshall (filmmaker, Toronto), Tracy McDonald (History, McMaster University), MH Tse (Law, Harvard University), Judith Nicholson (Communication Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University), and Erika Ritter (writer, Toronto).

Bus to University of Toronto Mississauga Campus (12–1pm, bag lunch included)

Performance: 10 PLANKS from The Cage is a Stage
1–2pm, e|gallery, CCT Building, UTM
Choreographed by Emily Mast and performed by Kumari Giles, Benjamin Kamino, and Andrea Spaziani.

Roundtable Discussion #2: A monument to the impossibility of such encounters
2–4:30pm, CCT Building, UTM

What are the ethics and effects of prison tourism (and penal spectatorship, more generally) on those being observed? Those doing the observing? For and upon society? Moderated by Lorraine Pinnock (Walls to Bridges collective member and former course participant) and Philip Goodman (Sociology, UTM) with presentations by former participants of the Walls to Bridges program and excerpts from Brett Story's film, The Prison in Twelve Landscapes. The Walls to Bridgesprogram brings incarcerated students and campus-enrolled students together as classmates.

For more information on the exhibition, The Cage is a Stage, please click here.

Presenter Biographies

Abbas Akhavan’s practice ranges from site-specific ephemeral installations to drawing, video, sculpture and performance. The direction of his research has been deeply influenced by the specificity of the sites where he works: the architectures that house them, the economies that surround them, and the people that frequent them. Recent works wander onto spaces and species just outside the home – the garden, the backyard, and other domesticated landscapes.  Akhavan is the recipient of Kunstpreis Berlin (2012), Abraaj Group Art Prize (2014) and the Sobey Art Award (2015).

Mitchell Akiyama is a Toronto-based artist, scholar, and composer. His eclectic body of work includes objects and installations that trouble received ideas about perception and sensory experience; writings about contemporary art, animals, and cities; along with many albums of music and scores for film and dance. He holds a PhD in communications from McGill University and an MFA from Concordia University and is currently a SSRHC Postdoctoral Fellow at York University’s Sensorium Centre for Digital Arts & Technology.

Stefan Dolgert is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Brock University, where he writes and teaches on democratic theory, critical animal studies, posthumanism, and ancient Greek political thought.  He is currently finishing a manuscript on the rich tradition of non-anthropocentric thought in ancient Greece.

Columba Gonzalez is a PhD candidate in sociocultural anthropology at the University of Toronto. Her doctoral thesis elucidates the monarch butterfly conservation dynamics across its eastern migratory route. She builds on a post-humanist political ecology approach that attends the way in which humans and butterflies mutually constitute each other.

Liz Marshall is a Toronto-based documentary filmmaker (writer, director, producer), television director, and Impact consultant. She is known for her award-winning feature length documentaries Water On The Table (2010) and The Ghosts In Our Machine (2013). Both films pose significant questions about our human relationship to the natural world, and to other species.

Tracy McDonald is an associate professor of history at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. She specializes in Russian and Soviet History and her first monograph was entitled Face to the Village: The Riazan Countryside Under Soviet Rule, 1921-1930. She is currently working on issues of animal capture, trade, and captivity in the USSR.

Judith A. Nicholson is an Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University. She researches and teaches about mediated mobilities and about human-animal nonverbal interactions. She is co-editor of a Spring 2016 special issue on "Race and the Politics of Mobility" for Transfers: Interdisciplinary Journal of Mobility Studies.

Erika Ritter is a writer in several genres.  Published works include: a play, “Automatic Pilot”; a novel, The Hidden Life of Humans; and a non-fiction book, The Dog by the Cradle, The Serpent Beneath: Some Paradoxes of Human-Animal Relationships. As well, she worked for three decades as a host and contributor on numerous CBC Radio programs.

MH Tse, LL.B. (Osgoode), LL.M. (Toronto), LL.M. candidate (Harvard), is conducting research on the concept of dignity, and the recognition of moral and legal personhood for both animals and human beings. She has served as Legal Counsel for the federal Department of Justice in Toronto since 1998, in the areas of regulatory negligence and constitutional law. 

Performer Biographies

kumari giles is a multi-disciplinary artist, movement storyteller, food enthusiast and logistics nerd. As a queer, genderqueer, mixed-race Sri Lankan, they are committed to challenging high art and creating more access to the arts, food, and healing. They are a collective member of ILL NANA/DiverseCity Dance Company, and Unapologetic Burlesque. kumari created things I can not speak (2015), has performed in Cycle of A Sari (2014), 9 Loons (2013), PrideCab (2012)  and is currently working on FIRE

Andrea Spaziani is a Canadian choreographer, performer, and MFA candidate at the Transart Institute (Berlin/New York). She’s interested in writing technologies related to perception of the present body, and its movement. Recent works have been presented at the Judson Gym (NYC), Flowchart (Toronto), and her trio Rafters for Audio Guides, produced by Project Humanity. She is currently collaborating with Alicia Grant on the experimental dance documentary Aggro Infinitum, and performance work Chronic Need. She is curating SPACEBODIES II for the Transart Triennale on Aug 6th at Uferstudios in Berlin (GE), and is a 2016-17 artist in residence at HEIMA in Seyðisfjörður, Iceland. Recent publications include Exiting, Re-Existing, and an article in the Swedish Dance History, edited by Mårten Spångberg.


Morning Roundtable discussion: Each cage is a frame round the animal inside it.

Video produced with the support of the Jackman Humanities Institute.


Presented in partnership with the Jackman Humanities Institute. Generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council, with additional support from the Department of Visual Studies (UTM). 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.