Events and Projects

Witch Trap

(Added 29 March 2012)

Image Witch Trap, Meredith Carruthers _ Susannah Wesley, 2012, photo: David Ross

Witch Trap
Opens at ESP Toronto
Thursday, April 5, 7-10pm
Exhibition: April 5–April 29, 2012

Step softly over the grass, this a Witch House, a little tumble-down shed behind a hidden road, weed-choked, and desolate. There is nothing to see, unless a trace of folk-lore is a sigh, or an old legend… It is a forlorn spot. Thrice cursed I should say—the shell of a wild, forgotten phantasy holding nothing but an old superstition. For the tale of Dr. Troyer, once owner of this shack, belongs a century and more ago, when doubts may have been fashionable—but not in a rustic community like this. – From Canadian Houses of Romance by Katherine Hale _ Dorothy Stevens, 1926.

Seeking some form of possibility and knowledge, we are lured to the lake and woods of Dr. Troyer. In the 1790s John Troyer was one of the first settlers in Long Point Bay, Lake Erie. Amongst the wind swept dunes and eerie marshes, we imagine a loosening of cultural conventions as transplanted traditions clash and co-mingle along the bank of this Great Lake.

According to regional lore, Dr. Troyer believed he was the object of unwanted visitations by witches and suspected his fellow female settlers were among them. In one recounted event he was transformed from man to horse, then ridden by witches across the water to an isolated island where he observed fire-lit witch dances and other rites. Amongst the regional artefacts at the Eva Brook Donly Museum and Archives in Simcoe Ontario, is Troyer’s reaction to these experiences – a heavy iron “witch trap” that he kept at the foot of his bed. Benign and motionless in the museum’s collection, it seems a meagre container for the power of witches. We imagine Troyer fixed upon this object tucked under his bed, hopeful of its protection as he projected his anxieties and fantasies onto the landscape and women outside.

A wily match of female sexuality and intelligence, witch power has historically been seen as a threat to a composed cultural state. In this way, witchiness stands in for a potentially transformative aspect of femininity, a natural power that threatens to disrupt the rational order of things. As part of Witch Trap, Leisure highlights sections of the Expressionist dancer/choreographer Mary Wigman’s Witch Dance from 1914. In the stark and rhythmic movements of Witch Dance, the masked dancer engages in a process of self-transformation, embodying qualities of the witch. Framed by the Witch Dance, images of Troyer’s haunting landscape take on a new evocative power – strong, strange and charged with imaginative and feminine potential. Leisure invites the viewer to enter into this witchiness and risk being trapped by its power.

1086 ½ Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario M6J 1H8
Hours: Wed – Sat 12-6 p.m. _ Sun 1-5 p.m.

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