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UTSC don takes art to City Of Women festival

Tanya Mars performing Rare Parity at the Institut Suedois in Paris, France, 2012 (photo credit: Loic Connanski)

In the world of uncertainty about global economy and financial downturns, performance artist Tanya Mars, who has been recognized with the Governor General Award for Visual and Media Arts, is using her skills to focus people’s attention on their relationships with money.

One of her most recent art works is Rare Parity, a performance in which she uses currency notes to display the frailty of the financial system and how hard a task it is to build and sustain the economy.

“This work is a commentary on the fragility of the current global economy in a metaphorical way,” says the University of Toronto Scarborough’s senior lecturer in the Department of Arts, Culture and Media, as she prepared to fly to Slovenia where the City Of Women, an international festival, took place earlier this month.

Mars will also participate in the Live Art festival in GUANGZHOU, China this November. Both of her trips were facilitated by a $9,500 grant from the Canada Council for the Arts.

Rare Parity is a durational performance in two four-hour parts. In the first, Mars washes bills of different currencies that are both in and out of circulation, and then hangs these out to dry. When they are dry, she paints the mouth of each currency’s figurehead gold.

She says when she starts cleaning the money in a form of taking care of it, the audience is awestruck. “But think of all the heads of states, thinking of how to raise taxes, or reduce debt. Some of them manage, some of them don’t. It’s just like gold coming out of their mouths.”

In the second part of this performance, Mars tears all currency in half, mixes these in a bucket. She takes two different pieces at random and sews them together by hand with red thread. That may result in an American dollar half attached to a Yuan half, or a Slovene Tolar (out of circulation) with a Euro (which has replaced the Tolar)

Mars says that people can see destroying money happens fast, but putting it back together takes a long time. “So if you think about that metaphorically, it’s easy to destroy an economy and it’s much more difficult to bring the economy back to health.”

Mars says durational, task-oriented performance art enables her to interact with her audience. She has been on the Canadian art scene since 1973, and is the recipient of a 2008 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts among many other achievements.

© University of Toronto Scarborough