- 1973-2018 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
1.69 m of textual records
140.77 MB of textual records (docx, pdf, and other file types)
8382 photographs (jpg, tif, and other file formats) : b&w and col.
3786 photographs : b&w and col.
46 audio cassettes
30 audio discs
16 optical discs (47 hrs., 27 min.)
11 posters : b&w and col.
3 audio reels
1 video reel
1 film reel
Name of creator
Tanya Mars (1948- ) is a feminist performance and video artist, educator, and arts administrator active mainly in Toronto, Ontario. She was born in Monroe, Michigan and attended Fine Arts courses at the University of Michigan. In 1967 she moved to Montreal with her former husband where she attained landed immigrant status in Canada. She attended Fine Arts courses at Sir George Williams University and Loyola College (now incorporated into Concordia University) before eventually moving to Toronto in 1979. She has been an integral figure in the Canadian art scene since her 1974 exhibition Codpieces: Phallic Paraphernalia. She has performed widely across Canada and also internationally in Chile, Mexico, Sweden, France, Poland, China and Finland. Mars’ approach to art is interdisciplinary, borrowing themes and performance techniques from vaudeville, theatre, stand-up comedy, film, photography, magic shows, and dance. In her early works, she would center a repertoire of vibrant female characters within layers of visually rich, satirical, absurdist imagery to disrupt and question sociopolitical relations of power and cultural narratives of gender (e.g. “Pure” series). For Mars, the live presence is critical. Her art is an ongoing process involving an interactive experience with her audience, leading to a dialogue of meanings that only become materialized when the piece is performed (e.g. Competing for Space). Furthermore, she directly involves herself as both a performer and a physical object (e.g. Tanya-in-the-Box) whereby the human body and its movement or constraint becomes an integral component of each piece. In doing so, she explores the relationships between costume and wearable art, presentation, sculpture, and spectacle to speak to how the body engages with materials to inform how we perceive ourselves and our social conditions. In the 1980s, Mars began to incorporate video art into her repertoire, creating video adaptations of her live performance art (e.g. Mz Frankenstein), however she views these as creative adaptations designed for home consumption rather than documentations of the live experience. Since the 1990s, Mars has shifted her artistic direction towards creating immersive, site-specific, durational performance art featuring evolving tableaux vivant structured around repetitive tasks (e.g. Hot, Tyranny of Bliss, In Pursuit of Happiness).
Mars was a founding member, curator, and director of Powerhouse Gallery (La Centrale) in Montreal from 1974-1978, editor of Parallelogramme magazine from 1977-1989, and a board member of ANNPAC (the Association of National Non-Profit Artist-run Centres) from 1977-1989. Since 1998 she has been a member of the 7a*11d Collective which produces a bi-annual International Festival of Performance Art in Toronto. She previously taught at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University and the Ontario College of Art and Design. Most recently, she taught performance art and video at the University of Toronto Scarborough and was part of the graduate faculty of the Master of Visual Studies Program at the University of Toronto. In 2004 Mars was named Artist of the Year at the Untitled Arts Awards in Toronto and she is also the winner of a 2008 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts. In 2014 she received an honorary doctorate from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University.
The materials now constituting the Tanya Mars fonds were transferred from Tanya Mars to the Art Gallery of Ontario in October 2020.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
AGO Credit line: Gift of Tanya Mars, 2022
Content and structure area
Scope and content
Fonds consists of documentation of Tanya Mars' career as a performance artist and video artist, including photographic, video, and audio documentation of her live performances; raw footage used in the filming of her video artworks; slides, video projections, and soundtracks used as live elements during her performances; and textual records documenting her creative process. Fonds also consists of professional records documenting her involvement with Powerhouse Gallery, ANNPAC, 7A*11d, and Parallelogramme magazine in addition to her role as a professor at the University of Toronto and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
Further accruals may be expected.
System of arrangement
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access
Open. Access to Special Collections is by appointment only. Please contact the reference desk for more information.
Conditions governing reproduction
Copyright is held by the creator. Copyright belonging to other parties, such as that of photographs, may still rest with the creator of these items. It is the researcher’s responsibility to obtain permission to publish any part of the fonds.
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Allied materials area
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related units of description
Production files, grants and awards files, art administration files, and writing and lecture files were originally interfiled, mainly in alphabetical order. These materials have been arranged into distinct series and into chronological order by the processing archivist in discussion with the creator. Art documentation files, live performance elements, and raw footage were originally arranged based on media type. These materials were intellectually arranged based on project or performance by the processing archivist, but remain physically arranged by media type.
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Dates of creation revision deletion
Created 22 February 2023
Prepared by Tamara Rayan, 2022; uploaded by Amy Furness, 22 February 2023