Rabbit // Pause


January 3 - 31, 2024

Clark Centre for the Arts, Toronto

My collaborator Samantha Sannella and I wonder what it means to self-identify with a rabbit: how does this inter species relationship become both a mirror for the self and for living mindfully, authentically and sustainably in the world today, and into the future? While Sam's focus is on painting and poetry, I have created a photographic response to the rabbits utilizing the Clark Centre and its surrounding landscape as part of this project.

left: painting by Samantha Sannella; right: photograph by Paola Poletto

Below is an excerpt of my written response to the site-specific project and accompanying bookwork.

Sam's paintings on left; my photo on right

I tried to tease out both in photographs and words what it means to self-identify with a rabbit: how does an interspecies relationship become both a mirror for friendship, the self, and for living mindfully and sustainably in the world today, and into the future? My project response takes form as photographic images from the landscape of the Clark Centre for the Arts, presented here as a triptych across 3 exhibition floors, and an accompanying bookwork. 

When Sam asked me to go down this rabbit hole with her, I immediately thought of the City of Toronto’s Clark Centre for the Arts at Guild Park. In 2022, I toured through the newly designed building, set upon a most beautiful campus filled with classical ruins from a local mason, forest animals and creatures and a winding path through the trees to Lake Ontario. Located nearby Sam’s own home, it felt community specific and appropriate for her self-portraits. I imagined other rabbits besides her own busy amongst the grasses here, and people strolling along the paths and banks of Lake Ontario mindful of one another, enjoying one another. I also wondered, “What would it feel like to take a photo if I were a rabbit?” How could I capture the stillness that Sam’s portraits exude, but also make a literal leap? I am interested in the way a rabbit perspective might allow me to see the world differently, what it means to hop sporadically and from side to side. How might it feel to stay in place, and then zig zag through time and space, to find oneself in an honest way?

Sam's paintings left, my photo right


The figure hopping for example, in my photos, was hopping about as I was hopping about with my camera. As a photographic series, the figures of us multiply with every photograph, echoing the way Sam has multiplied her many selves through each new painting.

My photo left, Sam's paintings and soft sculpture right


There are three photographs in the exhibition that show various positions of hopping achieved by the panorama, where my own “hop” speed is faster than the camera phone’s computing capacity. There are pictorial fissures and gaps including blurs and black digital spots that offer a sense of movement and depth beyond the scene. The first is a wide landscape with a very small figure and their camera phone in hand. In the second photograph the figure is caught in a hop as I hop. In the third image, my hop has created a central axis that neither vanishes nor stands still. The picture plane is unsettled.

My fourth photo occupies the inside front and back covers of the publication. Divided by the book spine, the photograph is broken into two images each with their respective pathway leading us prospectively further into the photographic scene. Metaphorically, the photo invites us into Guild Park to sit on the stone monument, and on the inside back cover, it sends us to an ancestral home evoked by the wood cabin. This photo is meant to set up a dialogue with Sam’s body of work held within its pages.

Thank you to the Ontario Arts Council for exhibition assistance; and ImageFoundry, Beehive Design and Toronto Metropolitan University for project support.