Dachshund UN Opens In Toronto

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Dachshund dogs sit in their positions for the performance installation "Dachshund UN", where dachshund dogs were used to mimic a United Nations Commission on Human Rights meeting in Toronto on Thursday, February 28, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michelle Siu | CP

TORONTO - The world's leaders spent an hour barking, sniffing one another, and chasing their own tails in what was far from a normal United Nations meeting.

Dachshund UN, a miniature version of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights where the world's leaders are replaced by dogs, made its North American debut in Toronto on Thursday night.

Harbourfront Centre's Enwave theatre was host to 36 dachshunds that filled in for United Nations representatives from France, Germany, the United States and other nations.

"It's a powerful, profound piece of work but it's kooky on the surface," said Tina Rasmussen, artistic director of Harbourfront Centre's World Stage 2013 performances.

Rasmussen said that the audience plays an important part in the performance as well because they gauge what the dogs' actions along with what the nation that they are representing signifies.

"The audience reaction is nearly as powerful."

"What does it mean when China is asleep or when Chile is aggressive," asked Rasmussen.

Australian artist Bennett Miller created the show to question humanity's potential for creating a universal justice system.

Miller, who had already showcased the installation in the United Kingdom, says many of his works use animals to stand in for humans.

"It gets the audience to consider human behaviour differently," said Miller.

The artist chose dachshunds specifically for what he says is an interesting correlation between the breed and members of the United Nations.

"Dachshunds are impressive but restricted, you can match that to the United Nations," Miller said.

The diversity of dachshunds also played a crucial role in the artist's decision.

"Their racial variety of red, black, tanned, short-hair and long-hair makes them (as diverse as humanity) and is similar to a United Nations meeting."

World Stage officials said that a near maximum capacity audience of about 350 packed into the theatre to watch the dachshunds interact with one another.

The United States representative was the most vocal and aggressive, often barking loudly at his companions.

Argentina's representative was quiet and still for most of the performance, barely mustering a whimper.

And Nigeria mounted Saudi Arabia for a few moments while Germany and France exchanged a few harsh barks throughout the evening.

Susanne Feeley, owner of Mr. Smalls who represented Ukraine and Carrots who represented France, was proud of her dachshunds.

"I don't have kids but tonight it was like I was seeing my kids at a school performance," said Feeley.

Feeley said that she heard that Miller and World Stage were looking for volunteers and she immediately filled out the application along with sending in pictures so that the brother dachshunds could participate.

Dachshund UN will be performing in Toronto through March 4 as part of Harbourfront Centre's World Stage 2013 productions, and in Montreal in May.

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