You Cannot Kill What is Already Dead, the zombie-inspired art show at UTSC's Doris McCarthy Art Gallery, runs until Jan. 24.

Zombie-inspired art exhibit examines death in our society

Show on at UTSC’s Doris McCarthy Gallery until Jan. 24

Zombie culture cast a long, gruesome shadow over recent Halloween celebrations — and beyond.

Its spooky and scary reality lives on in an eerie exhibit entitled You Cannot Kill What is Already Dead.

Suzanne Carte, the show's curator, talks about her need to overcome her loathing for all things zombie-related to create the show.
Suzanne Carte, the show’s curator, talks about her need to overcome her loathing for all things zombie-related to create the show. (Theresa Spohn//Scarborough Observer)

The exhibit explores our uneasiness with death as the end of life. By embracing the zombie theme, it opens the discussion to talk about death in our culture.

“I think we have so many dead things within our culture that need to be either resurrected or thought of in new and creative ways,” show curator Suzanne Carte said on opening night Oct. 30. “Everything from our zombie economies to our zombie political ennui to our zombie ecology.”

She asked 10 artists to demonstrate their interpretations about the meaning of death.

Juan Zamora, creator of "the dead pigeon with its shadow singing", takes a photo of his work.
Juan Zamora, creator of the dead pigeon with its shadow singing, takes a photo of his work. (Theresa Spohn// Scarborough Observer)

Spanish artist Juan Zamora chose a pigeon to demonstrate the difference between life and death. A taxidermist prepared the bird before Zamora photographed its shadow. It is the shadow, not the bird’s body, that is animated with signs of life.

“I have seen so many dead pigeons in the street dead and nobody cares about them,” Zamora said. “I wanted to make at least one of them come to life and be beautiful and happy.”

Mario Schambon, a Columbian artist living in New York, talked about how the spirituality of his homeland permeates his work.  For him, Columbia is a place where the spirits of the ancestors are integral to everyday life.

“That was the most marked difference between how we deal with death between here (in North America) and in South America,” he said. “In South America, yes, the person’s gone but the soul of the person lives on in the hearts and minds of the people.”

Mario Schambon stands beside his work "Cara Falsa", a mirror image of his face.
Mario Schambon stands beside his work ‘Cara Falsa’, a mirror image of his face. (Theresa Spohn//Scarborough Observer)

In this exhibit, Schambon does not shy away from taking on human mortality directly, including his own. In his early 20s Schambon battled a brain tumor and was given a 50/50 chance to survive, he said. One of his contributions in the show is a “cara falsa”, a false face and his own mirror image.

Show contributor Lena Suksi, an OCAD student studying criticism and curatorial practice, tackled the death of young people’s dreams in her work. She created a large mural in the gallery’s external show space depicting the average amount of debt — $37,000 — students face upon graduation.

Lena Suksi, stands beside her work "No Relief" depicting the average debt load of university graduates
Lena Suksi, stands beside her work ‘No Relief’ depicting the average debt load of university graduates. (Theresa Spohn//Scarborough Observer)

“I understand this net (student loans) exists, but it’s not exactly a net because you immediately fall through it as soon as you graduate,” she said.

Carte was determined to create something different with You Cannot Kill What is Already Dead, she said.

“I never really became desensitized to (zombie iconography),” Carte said. “I always felt sickened, I always felt nauseated by it and terrified.”

The show is on until Jan. 24. at the Doris McCarthy Gallery.