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acts of preservation / acts of decay

Works by

Marli Davis, Shannon Garden-Smith, and Sara Maston

acts of preservation / acts of decay

Curated by Erin Storus


May 3–31, 2023


Clark Quadrangle
(in University College)
15 King’s College Circle

Within our natural ecosystem, decomposition and decay play an essential role in the breakdown of organic matter, recycling it and making it available again for new organisms to utilise. Without decomposition and decay the world would overflow with plant, animal, and human remains. It would also experience a decline in new growth due to a shortage of nutrients that would be locked up and unavailable in dead forms that don’t rot. Decomposition releases these nutrients.

Decay, and its impacts on virtually all aspects of life, is considered in its various forms by Marli Davis, Shannon Garden-Smith, and Sara Maston in acts of preservation / acts of decay, a site-specific exhibition in the Clark Quadrangle adjacent to the Art Museum’s University of Toronto Art Centre. Invoking the tension between preservation and decay, the project draws attention to the University College courtyard as a site at once carefully maintained and susceptible to the decomposing force of the natural environment. If decay must happen, can we have a more thoughtful consideration of where it occurs and who and what it affects? How can we address the tenuous relationship between decay and preservation, and when can we begin to know when preservation must make space for decay and vice versa?

This exhibition is produced as part of the requirements for the MVS degree in Curatorial Studies at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, University of Toronto.

Opening Reception: MVS Studio Program and MVS Curatorial Studies Program Graduating Exhibitions

Wednesday, May 3, 6pm–8pm
Opening remarks at 6:30pm
University of Toronto Art Centre

Exhibition Resources

Press Release
Exhibition Brochure
Large-Format Text
Exhibition Documentation

Our Supporters

We gratefully acknowledge operating support from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council with additional project support from the Reesa Greenberg Curatorial Studies Award and The Graduate Architecture, Landscape, and Design Student Union (GALDSU).



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