Upon deeper reflection and analysis of Maru’s vivarium, I have realized deeper symbols and metaphors that may be taken away from the exhibit. To begin, I first want to draw attention to the nature of the “performer” inside the vivarium. A human subject sits inside the vivarium with the plants, insects and all other materials that exist within the confines of the glass. Although the human subject is able to see and hear the individuals standing outside the vivarium, the performer does not often interact with, or acknowledge, the people on the other side of the glass. Guests are also unsure of how to interact with the performer that sits inside the glass. I believe that these phenomena can serve as a metaphor for the voiceless characteristics of nature. For example, nature is not able to speak on behalf of itself, stand up for itself in the courts, or voice to humans the extent of its trauma and destruction. It is for these reasons that humans are imperative to both the destruction and preservation of nature, for it is only human voices that are able to speak on nature’s behalf. The theater performances by Meredith Monk also aim to highlight the need for artists to serve as a voice for nature. Monk’s performances, named “On Behalf of Nature”, utilize symphony, dance, vocals, movement, and roleplay in order to baffle and intrigue the audience (New York Times, 2014). Just as the vivarium guests are unsure of how to interact with the vivarium, humans are also unsure of how to interact with nature at large.
Furthermore, it is important to acknowledge the gendered implications of the vivarium. Earth and nature are often associated with a feminine being, as can be exemplified with phrases such as “Mother Nature”. If a woman performer is inside of Maru’s vivarium, the guests may associate the exhibit with the feminine characterizations of nature and the planet. However, a male performer may illicit different responses; a male performer may appear more powerful and capable inside of the vivarium, while a female performer may appear more passive and gentle. Such gendered implications are obviously contextual and dependent on each visitor’s background and interpretations of the exhibit. Nonetheless, the existence of gendered implications may reveal deeper meanings between humans, the environment, and gender. According to an article written by Sarah Milner-Barry, “the idea that women and nature are inherently linked is a tacit acceptance of their mutual exploitation… when women are seen as “closer” to nature, it also makes them easier to subordinate, just as nature itself is everywhere devalued and subordinated” (Milner-Barry 2015). I think that Milner’s perspective is insightful and important to consider, especially for Maru as she works to develop her vivarium exhibit.
In addition, the confining nature of the vivarium draws attention to the limited amounts of resources that are available on planet Earth. Many individuals possess a human-centric approach to the world and the environment. Such an approach of the world is only natural, considering that many foundations of meaning are based upon the human condition, the human perception of the world, and the human desire to thrive (Manschot and Suransky 2014). However, such human-centric approaches to life do not often highlight the vulnerable and limited condition of the environments that surrounds us. There is only one Earth, and we are ALL confined inside of the vivarium that is planet Earth. Human conversations of life on Mars and other planets exemplify the tendency of humans to prioritize our own desires, while also remaining ignorant to the boundaries in which we live. Humans are constantly attempting to live outside of inherent natural boundaries, which often comes at a cost to the environment. In the end, it is the vivarium itself that dictates the livelihood of all that is inside.