A soldier lost his life today while watching over the “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” at the War Monument, Ottawa. Our thoughts are with the family impacted by the loss of someone they love as well as with the country of Canada. May our leaders act with discretion and wisdom. May they look at the systems that lead to the radicalization of people and take actions that work towards peace rather than promote militarization.
Past history and present tense invoked with installations at Fort York, Toronto.
Today we know of Fort York as the (barely visible) small patch of green space that buffers the expansive condo development that now grinds against the north and south sides of the Gardiner and barricades us from a view of the sky.
In 1793 the plan for a garrison was put into place by John Graves Simcoe. At the time, Niagara was the capital of the province but Simcoe felt that Toronto was a more suitable place for a naval base that would protect the area from the possibility of an American attack. Soon after, it was decided to move the base again – to Kingston – but a community had already developed around the area and by 1800 there was a residence built for the lieutenant-governor on the site.
In the spring of 1813 the Fort was attacked by the Americans. Both the Indigenous nations of the Mississaugas and the Ojibwa assisted Canadian and British forces to keep the Americans at bay but in the years the followed Fort York was continually attacked and occupied by American Forces. Eventually, due to the victory of the British in the War of 1812, Fort York became a more stabilized community that grew to become the settlement that was renamed Toronto in 1934, from the Kanienke’haka (Mohawk) word Tkaronto meaning “the place in the water where trees are standing.”
Two centuries of peace have passed but the site still remains to commemorate the battles and lives lost.
It has also become a great place to showcase dramatic and large scale art and performance.
Luminato does Fort York.
In 2012, as part of the commemoration of the 200 years since the war of 1812, Luminato staged a massive art install at the Fort called “The Encampment.”
“Marking the bicentennial of the War of 1812, The Encampment is both a luminous large-scale art installation and a kind of metaphoric archaeological dig—one that unearths not physical artefacts but long-buried shards and strands of human experience. Conceived as a “temporal village,” the installation comprises 200 A-frame tents pitched on the grounds of Fort York, which fell to U.S. forces during the war. Each tent contains an installation by one of 200 artistic collaborators, selected via an open call for contributors. Each creates a visual representation of an aspect of the war’s civilian history, gleaned from research into real-life stories of family, love, loss, survival, patriotism, collaboration and betrayal. Visible at a distance from several downtown locations, the massive assemblage of tents presents a wondrously glowing sculptural landscape. Explored at close quarters and through social activations, it offers poignant insights into the lives of ordinary people swept up in the epic drama of history.” More info…
Kaha:wi Dance Theatre participates in remembering and honouring the lost lives.
“Body of War reflects on how man becomes a soldier through the relentless repetition of acts of violence. What happens to the psyche as it learns to transgress social principles and integrates the willingness to kill? Set in the geography of the Normandy Landings and punctuated by testimonies of retired and serving soldiers, a mis-en-scene of visceral hand-to-hand combat is gradually deconstructed. The viewer is invited to engage in the relationship between human intimacy and the brutality of war choreography.
CHIC POINT by Sharif Waked (Nazareth, Palestine / Israel) Video Installation
“Chic Point ponders, imagines, and interrogates “fashion for Israeli Checkpoints.”
Male models expose body parts – lower backs, chests, abdomens – peek through holes, materials and standard clothes are transformed into pieces that follow normative fashion standards while calling them into question. Chic Point bares the loaded politics of the gaze as it documents the thousands of moments in which Palestinians are forced to undress in the face of interrogation, as they attempt to move through the intricate and constantly expanding network of Israeli checkpoints.”More info…
“The work is an attempt to explore world orders that defy geo-political definition. A red carpet-flag allows the audience to experience the glamour of walking down the catwalk, while unexpectedly being confronted with different political ideas regarding the fall of a totalitarian system.”More info…
MELTING POINT, 2014 by LeuWebb Projects (Toronto), Jeff Lee (Toronto), & Omar Khan (Toronto) Light Installation
“Located on the original shore of Lake Ontario, Fort York was built for defense. Over time, the Fort has stood its ground against enemy advances, expressways and condos as the lake’s edge has pushed further away. Situated in this context of protection and resistance is Melting Point, a sound and light based installation. Melting Point stocks a pair of cannons with an artillery of glowing good feelings, in the form of sparkling tributaries of light pouring from the mouths of the old weapons. Accompanied by a chorus of rolling waves and trilling harps, the work lays a defense agsinst the swirling market forces beyond, countering hard with soft and dark with light and creating a safe space for Art.”More info…
“Mismatched chairs are gathered from households for re-creation of the moment of a family function. Initiated by the audience, the movement of these objects creates the sounds of a family shuffling their chairs into position at the table.
The mirrored floor captures the physical reflections of the audience and the chairs, imbued with personal nostalgia, thus becoming the medium that retains and reflects private experience and memory.” More info…
BRIGHT BUNDLE 2014
“Bright Bundle is a light sculpture ablaze with pulsating light and sound representing the past and present of growth, prosperity, culture and the future. Set in the centre of Fort York, this 1000 metre ribbon of LED lights will glow and pulsate in a golden-white colour seen from a distance and beckon audiences from surrounding pathways towards it to bath in the glow of its pulsating lights and sound.”More info…
Wishing everyone a safe (and dry) night!
NOTE:Ascendant Line & Melting Point will continue to be on display until October 13.
“Before Day Break contemplates a sensitive artistic practice. Evoking the complexity of life itself, artists from diverse regions will offer singular perspectives in an attempt to cover different angles of reality. Through these practices they enable the audience to turn the ordinary into extraordinary artistic memory. Like the pixels in a photograph, human relationships, religion, socio-political and cultural behaviour are among the themes used to present a deeper message that speaks to the universality of the human experience. Motivated to challenge and surprise the viewer’s expectations, this vibrant environment will invite reflection on contemporary history, while juxtaposing it to Canada’s quest for inclusion and plurality. All of this leads to satisfaction of the eye and the intellect.Before Day Break defends and trusts the restorative power of art.” More info…
All images above by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag unless otherwise noted.
My maternal grandmother had 5 children. Then came 12 grandchildren. Now there are 9 great-grandchildren. With the exception of my grandmother, who lived a long and healthy life into her nineties, everyone is alive and well.
On the steps of the Human Rights Monument this Friday night in Ottawa, a Palestinian matriarch, with a cane in one hand and a flag in the other, slowly walked up to position herself in front of the faces of the children that have died in the recent attacks on Gaza. She smiled at the living children who ran up and down the steps around her in preparation for the ceremony. These children – in running shoes, cute sandals, sporty sunglasses and “The Amazing SpiderMan” shorts – are safe and sound in Canada.
This woman is probably in her seventies meaning she was born at a time when Israel had already begun its war on Palestine. Her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren have only known the story of war and never the story of peace.
I think again of my grandmother. She never had to witness the death of one of her children or grandchildren.
One child walked to the microphone. Stumbling on his words with the cracking voice of an adolescent boy transitioning into a young adult, he shared with the crowd that this week 9 of his extended family were killed in Gaza.
9 members wiped out. I struggle as to how to act in this moment. He can’t be more than 13. He has probably known more deaths in his family then years of his life.
I want children to be able to be just children with grandmothers who watch over them with laughter without wondering if today will be the last time they see their little ones play.
Let’s Foster a Society That Supports The Emotional, Spiritual & Mental Health of Those Who Return From War.
PTSD. – this dis-ease sticks to the inside of your brain like a thick glue clogging neural pathways. Anyone who suffers from it knows that sometimes, without any conscious cue, the primal brain fires off, short circuiting your waking intelligence. The amygdala takes over and runs the show, telling you what to think and how to react, even if it isn’t in accordance with logic that suits the context.
The smell of fear seeps through your pours and gets into your clothes. Within time though the smell fades but unless you have support and the tools to help the fear doesn’t. Often it even increases.
I come from a long line of Pacifists and a community with the anchoring spiritual belief that one does not bear arms in service of any government so I don’t accept war as a solution. But I also don’t accept a situation where soldiers come back from war to arrive home unsupported by the government that put them there.
Women and men who are left without pathways to healing are women and men who will go on to live only half-lives, who won’t become fully functioning parents and will have a higher risk of becoming abusers even if given a different trajectory in life they would have been nurturing mothers and fathers.
Historically Canada has failed the Aboriginal Veterans who have sacrificed in service of this country and now the current government has cut life-long pensions to those injured in war in favour of one-time pay outs. This leaves the broken members of our community vulnerable and in a time when we understand the role Post-traumatic Stress Disorder plays in family legacies this makes no moral or common sense.
How you can help!
I belong to Change.org an organization that allows you to sign online petitions in an effort to work towards change. Below is the petition came through last week and I think it’s important on Remembrance Day to reflect on the fact that war, and how it impacts Canadian families, is not a past issue, it’s a current one.
“When a Canadian enlists, they are promised that if they are injured or killed in service, then Canada will take care of them and their loved ones. This social contract is our sacred obligation to those who serve. We Canadians must defend it.In 1917, Prime Minster Robert Borden made that commitment as Canadians soldiers were about to attack Vimy Ridge. It has been repeatedly confirmed for almost a century. But today, our Government is denying the existence of this social contract, declaring it is not bound by commitments made by previous governments, and refusing the responsibility we owe to those who put their lives on the line for us.Our Government has severely reduced the amount of financial support given to disabled veterans, putting many wounded veterans in dire financial situations. Before 2006, disabled veterans were given a pension to that would support them throughout their lives. Today, they are given a lump sum for their pain and the Canadian Government wipes their hands of them. For a severely disabled veteran, this can mean 40% less than what they would have received under the old pension plan, or even up to 90% less than what other Canadian workers would receive for the same injuries.A group of veterans are suing the Canadian Government over the lump-sum disability payment (see http://equitassociety.ca/ ). In defence, Government lawyers have argued that Canada has no obligation to veterans or serving members of the Canadian Forces or RCMP, beyond that owed to an average citizen.We Citizens know better. We know the social contract exists and that we are morally, ethically, socially, and legally obligated to care for veterans and their survivors.Please sign this petition and tell our Government that we must take care of those who have served.”
Images above and below from the Service for Aboriginal Veterans at the Aboriginal War Memorial in Ottawa and The National Remembrance Day Ceremony. To all those past & presently serving in the hopes to create a more just and safe world –
Thank You, Merci, Miigwetch
All above photography by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.