Mircea Cantor

The Need for Uncertainty - mixed media installation
Modern Art Oxford, Wed April 2nd - Sun June 1st 2008

April 20, 2008
A huge golden cage fills half of the upper gallery ahead of which is a flying carpet suspended from the ceiling. The emptiness of the white space enforces the illusion of scale; the viewer is tiny compared to the vast dimensions of the cage. Walking around the circular cage, maintaining the suggested safe distance of 2 metres separation, the concentric rings of metallic bars have a harp like visual rhythm. Mircea Cantor has previously worked with the medium of live animals in earlier installations and this resplendent cage is a temporary home to both a male and female peacock. The peacocks are watching us watching them; both the viewer and the animals are uncertain of the nature of the interaction and who is ultimately in the power position. Modern Art Oxford have taken meticulous measures to make sure these are two of the best cared for peacocks on the planet. Having circled the cage a few time the visitor is free to leave, on each visit a different dose of animal behaviour having been observed. Alas the magic carpet lying overhead near the exit is non-functioning. Unlike the peacocks the visitor is not caged and is free to return to the rhythm of life. Suddenly the routine of work seems like a metaphorical cage and quite predictably boring. The need for uncertainty becomes clear.
To see one of the proudest and most majestic creatures that we still have on our planet reduced to an exhibit behind bars is saddening and pathetic. Yes, I see the point about 'freedom' but is there really any necessity to cause suffering to a living creature? Surely, if we need to ponder the concept of freedom we can just turn on the tv and watch the news. There's plenty of suffering to be seen there; plenty of people in the world being detained against their will or being forced into exile away from their 'right' environment. Surely we should be trying to reduce the amount of suffering in the world, not contribute to it further in the name of art.
When I passed the cage yesterday I thought how sad and distressed they looked as they huddled together trying to find some meaning. You people should go outside and run around in the park for an hour (Oxford 10K) - much better for the head.
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