Bill Burns at Mocca (Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, 952 Queen West), through February 20. 416-395-7430. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Like many contemporary shows built around a detailed fictitious premise, the quirky Museum of Safety Gear for Small Animals, at MOCCA 's swank new digs next to the Edward Day Gallery, takes some explaining.
Here's how the story goes. Canadian polymath Bill Burns has always had a deep concern for nature and small animals, and wanted to found an organization dedicated to saving them. He proceeded to launch Safety Gear For Small Animals, an organization that addresses many issues of animal habitat, rescue, safety and relocation.
This exhibit catalogues the projects undertaken by this illustrious organization with detailed statistics, images, wall charts and displays of animal safety gear. Among the items Burns recommends are amphibious respirators for frogs, knee pads for giraffes, work gloves and skateboards for prairie dogs, oxygenation stations for cod, and dust masks for pandas.
The museum, which look very much like the natural history exhibits we relished as children, kids and astonishes with its neatly organized and lucid weirdness. The emphasis is on miniature, and displays are assembled from toy models.
Some of the objects are downright neat, such as the collection of bird calls made from simple household objects. The museum also makes a pointed critique of modern taxonomy. While the child in us may marvel at tiny crash helmets for bunnies, the adult has to ask how our tendency to classify and assimilate everything affects the natural world around us.