Cat parents everywhere understand that it’s the cat who actually chooses us. A connection is made during the first meeting of cat and human making us part of each others world. The art project aptly titled They Choose You is based on this very idea and experience. Together we create a social circle and community, intertwined, felines will be our companions and teachers.
They Choose You is a “participatory, ephemeral art installation…a social mixer–for cats and people” taking place over one weekend in Toronto that will feature rescue cats, for adoption, from Toronto Cat Rescue (TCR).
Toronto based Artist Melanie Lowe seeks to highlight how we relate to other living creatures, in this case cats, in contemporary life. “They Choose You is art as activism, sincere and absurd at the same time, with a motive somewhere between a cat lady’s dream and a creative way to build community. The precarious lives of the cats are intertwined with the humans who inhabit the same city, allowing for an experiential connection in a shared space, beyond the walls of the animal shelter.“
I first met Melanie at a similar and successful art event in 2012 and reached out to her to find out more about They Choose You.
When did you first decide you wanted to combine your love for art and cats?
ML I started to think about cats in my own artworks after adopting Tobias from Toronto Animal Services and bringing him home to live with our other two cats. I started reading more about animal behaviour and really paying attention to how the cats interact. It is quite interesting to watch the cats meet, play and get reacquainted with each other.
ML My artwork has always been about how we relate to each other in contemporary life and in the last couple of years, it has expanded to how we relate to all living creatures. It makes sense to me…the animals we live with are members of our family, non-human persons really!
What is the biggest challenge/reward in organizing They Choose You?
ML I would say the biggest challenge is coming up with artworks that are both aesthetically pleasing and safe for the cats to interact with. I was looking for an exhibition venue that would be open to the idea of having cats and a space that could be easily modified, open, accessible, yet safe and enjoyable for the cats and people coming to meet them.
You are partnering with TCR for this event, why did you choose this rescue group?
ML I decided to work with TCR, who I also volunteer with as an adoption screener, because they are an organization that has done many adoption events and is also open to new ways of engaging the public. Volunteers from TCR will be present at all times during the event to oversee any adoptions.
From the perspective of a cat parent what is the biggest challenge homeless or stray cats in Toronto face?
ML There are so many homeless and stray cats in Toronto. It is very important that people keep their cats indoors and have them spayed/neutered, but quite often this doesn’t happen. As much as I love stopping to chat with a friendly cat on a neighborhood street, I’d rather their owners keep them inside!
What is your favorite work of art featuring cats?
ML There are so many. I would say British artist Louis Wain. He is so well-known for his images of cats!
What is the most important thing you would like people to take away from They Choose You ?
ML I would like people who attend They Choose You to come away with a positive experience and be present in the moment–with cats. We can learn so much from them and it makes sense to me to create a space where the cats and people who inhabit the same city can come together. And of course, if they decide to adopt a cat, that’s fantastic! Some people will be coming because they adore cats and already have two or three at home. I’m all for that. It is a social event for cats and humans!
They Choose You is on Indiegogo and the campaign runs until November 30 with funds being raised to cover cost of materials, production, labour and transportation costs for the art installation. $5 donations get you a big thanks at the event and online, $60 gets you a hand crafted scratching post and cool cat toys.
This free event is happening November 22-23 at Artscape Youngplace in Toronto and more info can be found on the They Choose You events Facebook page.