Zombies on Dundas West
The examination of “zombie as Other” continues as the procession turns west onto Dundas Street. In a large, diverse city like Toronto, relationships and interactions are carried between neighbourhoods and along streets. While there is a set of characteristics which tend to typify Spadina Avenue, these traits are fluid rather than constrained. There are no hard divisions between different areas of the city. There is “a bit of Queen West” on Spadina and similarly, Chinatown does not end when one turns from Spadina onto Dundas. The section of Dundas West between Spadina and Trinity-Belwoods presents itself as an intersection of many neighbourhoods, peoples and performances of different cultures. With multicultural restaurants like Buddha’s Vegetarian Foods situated within metres of hubs of commerce like Kensington Market (an eclectic combination of stores and restaurants), both abutting institutionally-zoned spaces for Toronto Western Hospital and Sanderson Library, what the Zombie Walk encounters and joins is a performance of situations which reveal the contradictions of society (Kofman and Lebas in Lefebvre Writings 14). As the procession continues into areas generally referred to as “Little Italy” and “The Annex,” the spontaneous performative nature of the Zombie Walk reflects the notion of “the city itself as a performing and performative entity or cultural product based on how people and other phenomena act, are seen to act or, indeed, are permitted to act” (Lefebvre 1996: 22). The definition of the urban space in Toronto creates a “network of relations and tensions between objects” (Kantor 217), which establish the foundation or “theatrical locus” (Ubersfeld 96) for the performance of everyday life. The Zombie Walk introduces an abnormal/fun performance which is a disruptive mapping onto the city streets, and in doing so reminds us that everyday life in Toronto is a product of encounters, relationships and performances. It is in the context of fun and the realm of play that the Walk is able to momentarily disturb the performance of the everyday, creating a situation where people and places familiar to the spectator are now made strange or foreign.
Zombies in Trinity-Belwoods Park
Returning to its starting point, the Zombie Walk ends at Trinity-Belwoods Park. The Park is a recreational place, founded on the ideas of community and fun, and serves as a gathering place, both for this performance and for city residents and visitors. It is a place separated from the traffic and business of the streets, and with an abundance of grass, trees and gardens, it could be considered “more natural”. It is in this space that the Walk comments on the definition of public and private spaces. Trinity-Belwoods is a protected area, set aside by the city for general use, but owned and managed by the corporation of the city of Toronto. The city’s website states that “one of the greatest strengths of our city is our wonderful parks system. Big or small, these parks offer everything from play to quiet relaxation. Our parks let you absorb the peace, quiet and natural beauty of the outdoors without leaving the city” (toronto.ca, Parks Listing). As a hub of leisure and physical activity, the park is a fun place where citizens can explore their own strengths and fitness. Trinity-Belwoods is a space of freedom and youthfulness. The transformation of this space into a meeting place for zombies stands in contrast with its peaceful, quiet characteristics. Cocarla (2011) suggests that the performance of the Zombie Walk can be considered culture jamming, reclaiming public spaces and overturning the “rational city” (129). As the Walk claims the Park as performance space, it makes fun of the idea of fun itself, how we structure our leisure and recreational time and the spaces we create to facilitate this.
The Toronto Zombie Walk is a social performance that explores the multiple meanings and interpretations of fun. As iconic representations of the viral zombie in literature and film, the Walk participants take on the characteristics of the fool/clown; commenting on our material selves, as well as our relationships with each other and with the city. As a site-specific performance, the meanings of the Toronto Zombie Walk are spatially created and reflected. As a “renewed fête” (Lefebvre 1996: 171) or a “critical unsiting” (Kwon 155), the Walk is a moment wherein our relationships with our selves, others and our spaces are questioned by making them unfamiliar. As a urban performance, the walk makes poignant commentary on art, public uprisings and contagion in Toronto. En route, the procession comments on the everyday use of different locations in Toronto, as well as the structure and performative nature of different streets, places and neighbourhoods. Disruptive by design and in imagery, what the Toronto Zombie Walk creates is a discourse on life in the city, prompting the audience to consider the peculiarities of everyday existence.
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