Parallel Lines is a multi-disciplinary interactive art installation and social engagement project encompassing:
*Perceptions* — a series of photo-based encaustic paintings centred around a prison bed from the former Kingston Penitentiary for Women; a standard-issue prison suitcase; and an individual
*15 Minutes of Fame* and *Fragile* — two interactive sculpture installations featuring: prison beds; performance; and Visitor participation
*Sharing Circles* and *Solitary* — storytelling sessions; interactive video; and workshops
About the Work
In the 1980’s, working with Canadian Association in Solidarity with Native Peoples, I met a youth, Jimmy, who told me that by age sixteen he had lived in fourteen foster homes; and one day, deeply depressed, figuring no one wanted him — he threw a shovel through a jeweller’s window convinced — at least he’d be wanted in jail.
His story haunted me.
We create a prison for ourselves through our beliefs.
Years later — wrestling with alienation and depression; racism, sexism; and the shame and guilt resulting from emotional abuse and sexual assault — I finally began to heal when I realized that I too had effectively created a prison for myself based on my own beliefs and constricted ideas of how life should be.
Facing death and struggling with suicide, both personally and that of close friends, I found solace and freedom of expression in sculpture and painting.
I began to see that the choices we make are governed by a subjective perception of reality. This found expression in my work.
In 2004 I was commissioned to create works with materials recycled from government buildings. Correctional Services Canada asked if I might do anything with prison beds recovered from the former Kingston Penitentiary for Women.
I created the interactive sculpture installation — *15 Minutes of Fame* — in honour of Jimmy and conceived Parallel Lines —
— a catalyst for community engagement; a multi-faceted forum for expression and discussion; and a provocative look at identity, alienation and the imprisonment of women through cultural expectations and social imperatives.
The title Parallel Lines refers to the bars of the physical, emotional and psychological prisons where all of us periodically find ourselves; and to how — drawing in one-point perspective —parallel lines appear to converge in the distance: just as seemingly opposing view-points can converge with a new perspective.
Parallel Lines is a personal meditation on our tendency to imprison ourselves and others through our beliefs and choices; and a reflection on the journey necessary for us to free ourselves and grow stronger.
a photo-based encaustic painting series exploring perception, reality and choice.
Featuring the prison bed, suitcase, and myself in various environments around the city of Toronto, the paintings are deliberately ambiguous, at times surreal and at times disquieting — provoking questions for the Visitor to interpret and explore.
Our perspective, inevitably limited, frames us — affecting and reining in our life choices. White corners in each work indicate the underlying photo edges; reference the photo corners of old photo albums; and allude to how we believe and frame our ‘reality.
*15 Minutes of Fame*
an interactive installation featuring:
— a prison bed; prison suitcase and an individual, with Artist-facilitated Question & Answer sessions.
— Visitors open a standard-issue orange “get-out-of jail” suitcase containing various personal items; consider and then arrange these objects on or around the bed to create their own personal artistic statement.
— Visitors then discuss with onlookers: what they are aiming to express; why they choose to arrange the objects as they have; and how they feel about the entire experience.
an interactive sculpture installation featuring:
— a series of black metal prison beds (arranged as if in a dormitory) and
— a path of eggshells upon which Visitors may walk (hand in hand with me, or alone) each of us silently acknowledging our own private histories; the fragile nature of memory and emotion; and the uneasy path we all must navigate in order to escape our prisons and find healing.
— Visitors may also write a memory or message on vellum, crumple the vellum and add it to the path of eggshells.
Artist-facilitated discussion sessions
— people of all cultures, ages and socio/economic backgrounds share stories; and consider various symbols (bed, suitcase, frame, prison) from an artistic, emotional, social, psychological, spiritual and cultural perspective.
Building bridges in communities, we cultivate empathy — countering the racism, sexism and intolerance in our world.
These sessions can be presented in collaboration with local Health Authorities to provide mental health support workers for Visitors, during or following exhibitions, should people become emotionally affected by the work.
an interactive video experience — where Visitors recount and document their own stories.
The resulting videos — which I will create in consultation with the participants — become legacy pieces for each gallery or museum, documenting the oral histories of their communities.
These works will also be accessible online.
Discussion and interaction is key in Parallel Lines.
I am available to activate the exhibition as Artist-in-Residence: performing; interacting with Visitors; facilitating Sharing Circles; recording video testimonials; conducting Artist Talks and walk-throughs; and directing workshops at the galleries or in the community — for the duration of the exhibition.
Activity Kits will enable Visitors to continue the work of the project at home, in schools and within their own communities.
Together, the paintings and the interactive installation become an outreach project in which the viewer plays an integral role. Viewers share their impressions and the stories the work brings to their minds, often enacting them before other onlookers—creating an ever-shifting narrative of imprisonment, freedom, isolation, community, self-sufficiency, dependence, desperation, and hope.
Viewers bring their own ‘baggage’ to the work mentally or physically when they sift through the contents of the suitcase or project their own histories and perceptions atop the paintings, much as I applied the pigmented beeswax onto and beyond the underlying photo. What, hence, is ‘real’ or original, what manufactured and ‘imagined’? The lines blur . . . or are, in fact, parallel: we can never fully step out from behind the bars of our own perceptions.
Parallel Lines provokes, disturbs, questions, embracing the undetermined and the indefinite. But it is precisely this open-endedness that inspires debate and interaction across the barriers —cultural, economic, religious, linguistic, and political — that usually separate us. And from these debates and interactions spring possibilities and new perspectives.
The Prison bed
Correctional Services Canada gave me approximately 30 prison beds — from the now closed, former Kingston Penitentiary for Women, an institution itself loaded with history — with which I created the sculpture series LockDown. They also gave me the orange, standard-issue, get-out-of-jail suitcase which inspired the interactive installation 15 Minutes of Fame — featured in Parallel Lines.
what's been said
"As a person who attended an Indian Residential School — the bed triggers memories from those days. I'm kinda scared of it — but at this point in my life, I also have to be aware that healing would only be a good thing." — Darlene Angeconeb, Residential School Survivor
what the people do . . .
Painted with beeswax and microcrystalline wax on birch panels, the paintings are mounted with D-rings for hanging on picture hooks. Currently there are 21 paintings in the series; 5 are in private collections. New works are in progress.
Each bed measures 30” wide x 88” long x 28” inches high (6’6”ft x 2’5” ft).
The bed is comprised of three pieces: a flat main frame, and two end pieces which bolt onto the main frame to create the headboard and footboard supports.
*15 Minutes of Fame* — includes 1 bed, pillow and blanket, and 1 orange suitcase filled with assorted personal items.
*Fragile* — includes up to 18 prison beds (configured in rows); 120+ dozen eggshells (sanitized); a protective floor runner; plastic shoe covers for Visitors walking in sock or bare feet.
The Artist is also Performer, Host and Master of Ceremonies, inviting and motivating Visitors to interact with the installations; create their own artistic statements; and dialogue with others.
For large groups, an Assistant/Docent is helpful:
— for returning the installation to its original state (i.e.: objects in suitcase, blanket folded) in preparation for subsequent Visitors while the participating Visitor discusses his/her work with onlookers; and
— for documenting Visitors’ installations and interaction sessions through video and photography.
For over 100 years Aboriginal children were removed from their families and sent to Residential Schools. The government-funded, church-run schools were located across Canada — established with the purpose to eliminate parental involvement in the spiritual, cultural and intellectual development of Aboriginal children. The last school closed in the late 1990s.
More than 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were forced to attend these schools — some of which were hundreds of miles from their homes. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has determined that the cumulative impact of residential schools is a legacy of unresolved trauma passed from generation to generation and has had a profound effect upon the relationship between Aboriginal peoples and other Canadians.
A disproportionate number of Aboriginal people are imprisoned in Canada. Aboriginal children account for a much larger part of the child welfare system's caseload than their share of the population. Both those trends are consequences of the residential school system.
The TRC found that people raised in the residential schools sometimes found it difficult to become loving parents. Those who were abused went on to abuse other people as adults or fell victim to substance abuse.
Students who were treated and punished like prisoners in the schools often graduated to real prisons. For many, the path from residential school to prison was a short one.
A small brown suitcase — packed with sacred medicines and a poem — was placed in the TRC's Bentwood Box by residential school survivor Marcel Petiquay, as a symbol for healing and reconciliation.
This suitcase represents the many suitcases packed by parents of the children, filled with ceremonial clothes, dried meats and beaded moccasins.
Most of the suitcases were immediately removed the moment the child got through the front doors — and returned empty, upon leaving.
I offer Parallel Lines — as a vehicle for healing and artistic expression.
If you or anyone you know would like to share your story; participate in the installation; and/or would be interested in having me paint your story so that you might be heard and understood, and so that others may also know and learn — please contact me directly at:
amanta (at) amantascott.com