Georgia Dawkin, INFESTATION exhibition text by Terry Doyle
Georgia Dawkin asks the viewer of INFESTATION to consider the “overwhelming thoughts and anxieties that inhibit their daily lives” (italics are mine).
And the toads do overwhelm. The neon green two-dimensional creatures line the floor as you enter the space, they sit upon shelves on the walls. Frogs and toads crowd the centre of the room. What’s left, the lone route through the exhibit, is a circle, returning the viewer where they started.
There is a subtitle for the exhibit:
INFESTATION by Georgia Dawkin, starring the toads of Massey Drive.
Massey Drive is a town that is named for a road; a road named for Vincent Massey, one-time Governor General of Canada, whose work led to the eventual formation of the National Library of Canada, and the Canada Council for the Arts.
The frogs are plastic—or, rather, they’re plexiglass. They’re fake. Though catching, bright, and when you’re in the space certainly unignorable, they are, ultimately, untrue. A contrivance. An intrusion. And though they are arresting, they do inhibit your passage through the space.
I felt the artist had attempted to tame something wild. Maybe those overwhelming thoughts and anxieties she asks us to consider. Though perhaps “tame” is wrong. She has captured a wildness by turning her attention toward it, synthesizing it, making it glow. She has placed it where urbanites can appreciate and contemplate it—its wildness, its nature—and then make their way through it.
There are two chairs. One in which, it seems, to sit. The other occupied, infested, by the toads.
Come, sit here, with this intrusion, think a spell, about whatever overwhelms you, consider the ways you experience a seemingly stable world and perhaps acknowledge its overwhelming instability, its cruelty.
All art, all thought, begins with an awareness of our mortality. But here, sit, consider a bright green symbol of life, of complexity. Consider the possibility of a metamorphosis.
You cannot live forever, but maybe you can live better, you can be more stable, if you can identify and apply awareness, as the artist has, to the overwhelming, the anxiety inducing.
Or sit with the instability, frame it, reframe it, look at it the way Georgia Dawkin looks at the toads of Massey Drive. A place named for a road. Travel through.
Realize there’s only now.
Cherish the toads, even in a plague.
What a wonder they are, what a marvel it is, to see them. To be infested.
Terry Doyle is a writer from the Goulds. In 2017 he won the Percy Janes First Book Award, and was a finalist for the NLCU Fresh Fish Award. Terry published his first book (DIG) in 2019, and it became a finalist for the Danuta Gleed Literary Award, the Alistair MacLeod Short Fiction Award, The Margaret and John Savage First Book Award, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Book Award for fiction.