The Cage is a Stage (Field Notes)

Featuring research, texts, and source material corresponding to each of the twenty performance vignettes that comprise The Cage is a Stage, with an introduction by Emily Mast and full colour illustrations throughout.


This micropublication was produced on the occasion of Emily Mast's exhibition, The Cage is a Stage, June 22 - September 18, 2016.

Curated by Julia Paoli and Christine Shaw


Click here to download.


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

The Cage is a Stage was developed in collaboration with and performed by Heyward Bracey, Kiara Gamboa, Garrett Hallman, Angelina Prendergast, and Joe Seely.

Artist Biography

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). Mast has received numerous awards including a Harpo Foundation Grant (2013); Center for Cultural Innovation Investing in Artists Grant (2013); Franklin Furnace Fund Grant (2013); and a California Community Foundation Fellowship (2012). In 2009 Mast graduated with a Masters in Fine Arts from the University of Southern California and has been an artist-in-residence at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture; the Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito; and Yaddo in Saratoga Springs. 


Introduction: Emily Mast

Dramaturgy and research: Alison Cooley, Rachel Kauder Nalebuff, Emily Mast, Julia Paoli, Christine Shaw. In collaboration with Heyward Bracey, Kiara Gamboa, Garrett Hallman, Angelina Prendergast, Joe Seely.

Design: Matthew Hoffman

Printing: Colour Code Printing

How To Order

To order any of our publications, please send an email including title(s), number of copies, and your mailing address to:


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.




Related Projects

The Cage is a Stage
June 22 - September 18, 2016
Emily Mast
Curated by Julia Paoli and Christine Shaw