I was led to Cages, an installation by Ava Darkheart at Frank Atisso’s Artsville Galleries entirely by chance. The intention had been to drop into Chuck Clip’s The Book of Caligula; however, a SLurl error on the Artsville blog directed us 1,000 metres higher than Chuck’s installation, dropping us neatly into Ava’s exhibition. It was actually serendipitous – Cages had opened in mid-January, and I’d totally missed the announcements about it – and so might actually have missed it entirely before it closes on March 5th, 2023, had it not been for the mis-direct.
Perhaps the easiest way to describe this 6-part installation is as an essay in art, a story of the one journey we all have no choice but to make: that of life.
However, rather than charting this journey in as Shakespeare did, through the seven stages from birth to death (As You Like It Act II, Scene 7) or as a reflection of both admiration and ultimately ironic sense of despair on the human condition (Hamlet Act II, Scene 2), Ava instead presents a set of vignettes which encourage us to consider six aspects – six “cages” – of life which may both constrain us and also define us as individuals. In doing so, she challenges us to consider a range of subjects, natural and social / societal.
Presented around a central foyer / event space, the installation comprises six numbered rooms, which can be visited in numerical order, if so desired, although outside of the first room, it is not unreasonable to say the others might be visited howsoever the feet wander. The entrance to each is marked by white chevrons on the floor of the foyer hall, and whilst blank from the outside, can be seen to be a keyhole from within each room – a rather nice metaphor, perhaps for the keys to life and unlocking understanding. Alongside each entrance, Ava sets out the title of the cage presented within, together with a short text piece to challenge the grey matter into action in considering each vignette.
In total, the six themes, in their default order, are: birth, the body, roots / the family, emotions, work, and the brain. Each offers a static vignette representing the core focus. Each is carefully considered with very little within it to be overlooked, with both obvious and more metaphorical elements awaiting discovery.
Take Birth for example: the baby floating within the cage is clear enough, as might be the seabed-like setting in which both reside (suggestive of amniotic fluid and the pre-birth “memories” some claim to have of floating within their mother’s womb) – but don’t miss the little red-crowned crane frozen in mid-dance as a potential stand-in for the stock of childhood stories. Then there is the cocoon bag sitting to one side; not only does the name evoke thoughts of the womb within the womb, it allows us, via our avatars as they sit within it, a means to recapture a sense of warmth, protection and nourishment which carried us into the world.
Some of the commentary is more direct – such as the text panel for The Body’s Cage (The Flesh), speaking as it does so eloquently on matters of gender and the growing divide between personal identity and the increasing (and unbalanced) demands for conformity / regression to purely binary outlooks some in society are demanding (despite nature as a whole rarely being truly binary). Meanwhile, there is such a subtle play on human relationships offered within The Roots Cage (The Family); contrast the reproduction of The Last Supper on the wall behind the family group, the babe-in-arms – and the look on the face of the man with burger and coffee in his hands as he keeps his head and eyes turned away from the conversation; and don’t overlook the little bench outside with its lone light, and all that might say about familial separation and loneliness.
I could work my way through all six – the use of the peacock, the Jaguar, the apple tree and colours with The Untamed Cage, and so on – but this is an installation designed to get the visitor’s grey matter churning on the subjects and their motifs, and as such, I really have said far too much here. As such, I do recommend a visit before Cages draws to a close in early March
- Artsville Gallery Complex (Caribbean Ocean, rated Moderate)