Art installation will highlight Day of Remembrance event

Above: one of 14 cutouts in preparation for the Silent Witness art installation

Events marking the Dec. 7 Day of Remembrance at York, a commemoration of the Montreal Massacre, will include a special art installation in York’s Vari Hall.

The project, titled Silent Witness, is a volunteer effort by students, staff and faculty to mark the 20th anniversary of the shooting on Dec. 6, 1989 in which 13 students and one staff member were killed at l’École Polytechnique just because they were women.

The installation will be on display Dec. 7 from 9am to 6pm. Day of Remembrance events begin with a march at 6pm and a film screening at 7pm. See below for more details.

Left: Volunteers  from York’s Sexual Assault Survivors’ Support Line collect pledge cards in Central Square

Kristina Osborne, senior adviser of education & communications in York’s Centre for Human Rights (CHR), put the call out to members of the York community for artists who would help create 14 life-size cut-outs, one for each of the victims. The response came from many quarters, particularly students from the Fine Arts Student Ambassadors & Mentors(FASAM) group in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts. When Osborne took a count of the volunteers from Fine Arts, Residence Life, the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Support Line and CHR, she said there were more than 75 who had come forward to lend a hand in creating the installation.

“It was wonderful to see the dedication and passion, the commitment and enthusiasm the students brought to this,” said Osborne.

Picking up on an idea from other Day of Remembrance ceremonies where plain cut-outs representing the victims were first used, Osborne asked the artists to create an individual interpretation of the massacre on each piece. The display will include a PowerPoint visual introducing the exhibit and the history of the shooting.

Artists contributing to the installation include Coni Davila, Alex Cheng, Laura Crowell, Vivian Sofia Mora, Alexandra Thorne, Nazanin Azari, Meg MacKenzie, Emile Wickham, Ell Mazur and Maryam Shirazi. Student Nayha Jehangir Khan is serving as project manager and photographer Liz Lam will be documenting the project visually. Patrick Legris coordinator of Facilities Services for the Faculty of Fine Arts, will be making all of the bases so that the art pieces can stand upright.

Right: Nayha Jehangir Khan, project manager, works on one of the cut-outs

Osborne said volunteers are still needed on the day of the event. Anyone interested in helping out should contact Osborne by e-mail or call 416-736-5682.

Key organizers for the event are Tina Pietrangelo, coordinator of administrative services in the Faculty of Fine Arts, responsible for the FASAM group, SASSL co-ordinators Kate O’Connor and Sabrina Friedman, and Melanie Chai, acting manager of Residence Life, Student Community & Leadership Development.

The Silent Witness project is just one of several events around this year’s Day of Remembrance ceremonies. York’s Sexual Assault Survivors’ Support Line launched a pledge campaign, which runs until Dec. 4 at tables in several residence lobbies and the SASSL Office, B449 Student Centre. Members of the community are being asked to write down on a card the one thing they want to do to help end violence against women. The cards will be on display as part of the Silent Witness installation on Dec. 7.

All students, faculty and staff are being invited to take part in a silent march, beginning at 6pm by the fountain in the Harry Arthurs Common, in solidarity with survivors and in protest, defiance and memory of all the women who have been assaulted and murdered all over the world.

At 7pm there will be a free screening of director Denis Villeneuve’s 2009 dramatic film Polytechnique at the Nat Taylor Cinema, N102 Ross Building.

For more information on the pledge campaign and event schedule, visit the SASSL Web site’s News & Events page.