The cinema of David Cronenberg offers one of contemporary cultures most unique, intriguing and powerful speculations on the idea of human evolution. The exhibition celebrates not only one of the world’s most acclaimed filmmakers but one of our most provocative and influential thinkers. (David Cronenberg: Evolution, Didactic text, Tiff Bell Lightbox)
On Friday December 27th, 2013 I visited the Tiff Bell Lightbox in Toronto to check out an exhibition on one of my favorite horror movie directors. Long Live the New Flesh; the David Cronenberg Evolution Exhibition is being presented at the Tiff Bell Lightbox at Reitman Square, 350 King Street West until January 19, 2014. The exhibition is not only welcoming to die hard Cronenberg fans, but also invites those who do not know much about the eerie work of Cronenberg to come learn and enjoy an interesting and engaging presentation of his dynamic portfolio of filmmaking. The Evolution Exhibition reveals a multitude of original artifacts, set pieces, props and numerous audio-visual displays. The layout is set in a roughly chronological order, which allows the visitor to easily see the growth Cronenberg goes though from his early short films to his more current Hollywood Blockbusters. While walking through and enjoying the exhibition you’ll hear clips of horror from every direction, scenes from different Cronenberg films playing on multiple screens scattered throughout the exhibition area. This sounds and sights element makes the experience quite surreal and you really feel the psychotic nature of his work.
Toronto born David Cronenberg has been creating crawl-in-your-skin horror genre movies and short films since the 1960’s. Growing up with an interest in writing, Cronenberg attended the University of Toronto studying science and literature. His interest in the body and the mind are what inspired his early work and many of his early movies. The theme in many of his early movies is consistent – following the lives of victims of experiments that have gone haywire because of a “mad” doctor or scientist. As a fan of Cronenberg’s early work, the Evolution Exhibition provided insight explaining hidden meanings and messages throughout these movies spanning further than the mere horror or gone wrong situations that I always just enjoyed as a viewer. It becomes very interesting when you delve deep into the meaning behind his movies learning why and how Cronenberg wrote like he did. For example, the explanation I provided on his early films, as explained in the exhibition, there’s more to the stories than I ever thought. “Through these characters Cronenberg asks important questions about who we are and how we see ourselves. Cutting-edge scientific research promises new, liberating ways of being and acting, but also confines and destroys – the early films are characterized by gore and viscera: this is the chaos wrought by these doctors and scientists.” (David Cronenberg: Evolution, Didactic text, Tiff Bell Lightbox). I agree that in the real life case there are way too many hospital horror stories these days, that there are too many gone wrong situations and negative experiences that can arise from doctor mistakes. Quite dramatically in his films Cronenberg has taken these ideas up a notch and has mastered the art of putting chilling, nightmarish scenarios onscreen. His films have touched upon topics such as body mutilation, addiction, mental health issues, depravity and sexual fetishes of all stripes.
There are also three fun, interactive activities within the exhibition for the audience to get involved with and enjoy that also make the whole experience even better. Outside of the exhibition in the Tiff Lightbox foyer there is a free DNA analysis photo booth where you can engineer your own genetic transformation. The booth combines your DNA with David Cronenberg and takes a photo, morphing the results and creating a photo of it to take home as a souvenir or for you to share it on your social media feeds.
There is also a Photostar photobooth in the Interzone at the exhibition that features the bar scene from Cronenberg’s film Naked Lunch, complete with a Mugwump dispensary model made of foam latex. Attendees are encouraged to pose while it takes 3 photographs with the Mugwump. The photographs are immediately sent to your email. Finally, on the fourth floor of the exhibition area, there is a Body. Mind. Change. project. This is an interactive and immersive online experience that puts the participants inside Cronenberg’s head. He reuses themes that are similar to the ones used in the film eXistenZ. The grow-your-own pod experience is created based on information from an online test you can sign up for at home at the website Bodymindchange.ca. Once the simulation is completed online the results are sent to Tiff and your pod is created in the lab (3d print customized to your test results) at the fourth floor of the Tiff Bell Lightbox exhibition area for Body.Mind. Change. and will be ready for pick up. You don’t have to actually attend the exhibition to participate in this pod project so go ahead and try it at home now. I send a word of warning however – it’s an exceptionally creepy activity and not one you want to do while home alone! The simulation process questions and torments your mind and then creates a customized Cronenberg style short horror film just for you. To be honest, the experience was exceptionally creepy and it scared me out of mind (and I am sure it is supposed to)!
I find Cronenberg film’s have interested me in the past not only because these movies are unique, eerie and entertaining but also because the prosthetics, make up, and sculptural work that goes into creating his films is out of this world! Cronenberg’s films have a clever use of costume, makeup, set design and visuals that enhance the plot of his films. The exhibition is inspiring for young filmmakers and artists alike – I think particularly appealing to OCAD students, students of Complexions Makeup School and anyone else interested in fabrication studies. The Evolution Exhibition hosts items such as the hand-made cast bronze operating instruments seen in “Dead Ringers” or the Clak-Nova typewriter-beaten puppet made from cast plastic, paint and metal typewriter keys wires seen in “Naked Lunch” or from my favourite Cronenberg film, the iron rod teleporter from The Fly. The unique items from the sets, the makeup and prosthetics used, the props created, the storyboards – all include explanations about which movies they are from and how and when they were used. It is so important for young artists to visit exhibitions like this to study the work of other successful artists – Cronenberg is a master of the horror industry, he has won 64 awards and has had 45 nominations for his films. There is a lot to be learned from someone like that. As quoted by David Cronenberg “Everybody’s a mad scientist, and life is their lab. We’re all trying to experiment to find a way to live, to solve problems, to fend off madness and chaos.” David Cronenberg IMDB.
You can attend the exhibition until January 19th 2014 and special offers include Film & Exhibition Combo packages for only $20 and special entry to see the exhibition on Tuesday’s – only $5!
For additional info, tiff.net/cronenberg/exhibition