Parallel Lines

an interactive art installation and social engagement project

Amanta Scott • Parallel Lines — exhibition at Museum of Northern History, Kirkland Lake

where different points of view may converge through the magic of perspective


a series of photo-based encaustic paintings exploring perception, reality and choice, centred around a prison bed from the former Kingston Penitentiary for Women; a standard-issue prison suitcase; and an individual

In Memoriam

a sculpture installation featuring a series of black metal prison beds


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,  “get-out-of jail” orange 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.


a path of eggshells upon which Visitors may walk, 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 are invited to walk the pathway holding a key bearing a tag upon which is written one word indicating something they are seeking in life. When they reach the end of the path they may then tie the key and tag to the prison bed in the installation — Esperanza.

— Visitors may also write a memory or message on vellum, crumple the vellum and add it to the path of eggshells.


an interactive sculpture installation featuring a prison bed adorned with keys and words offered by Visitors. 

Visitors are invited to write one word on a manila tag which is attached to a key.

This word signifies something they seek in life, such as: 

. . . forgiveness . . . healing . . .
freedom . . . acceptance . . .
love . . . success . . . health . . . 

This word may be repeated on the alternate side of the tag or written in another language.

Visitors are invited to meditate upon what they seek and then walk the path of eggshells — Fragile — before or after tying the key to the bed.

Sharing Circles

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.


conducted in the communities or galleries — bringing together Newcomers, Indigenous and Canadian youth and seniors to explore who they are, where they came from and what matters to them, through storytelling, song, drawing and painting.

The workshops empower participants to share stories and explore creative personal expression through the arts. 


The title Parallel Lines refers to the physical and emotional bars of the prisons in which we periodically find ourselves.

It also refers to how opposite sides of a road, in one-point perspective, appear to converge in the distance — just as seemingly opposing view-points can converge with a new understanding.

Parallel Lines began as a personal meditation on our tendency to imprison ourselves and others through our beliefs and choices.

It is also a reflection on the precarious journey that we all must take in order for us to escape our self-imposed prisons and find healing in our own lives and communities

Connecting and engaging with strangers through play, performance, laughter and conversation — empowers us and enables us to appreciate the values, priorities and perspectives of others. 

Cultivating compassion and empathy in centres of colonial cultural power, Parallel Lines brings together: Canadians; First Nations people; Newcomers; refugees; former inmates; residential school survivors; abused women; insomniacs; recovering alcoholics; refugees; and travellers . . . to consider and discuss physical and emotional imprisonment; alienation; sexism; appropriation; misappropriation; and systemic racism.

Through interaction and conversation with people of all walks of life, cultures, ages, and socio-economic backgrounds, Parallel Lines empowers people to voice intense, personal and political issues; deepen understanding; forge connections; and engage meaningfully with the arts.

Over the years, Parallel Lines has evolved into a catalyst for intercultural community engagement and healing, a multi-faceted forum for expression and discussion; and a provocative look at alienation and imprisonment through personal and cultural expectations, and social imperatives.

Everyone has a story, a unique perspective.

As a mixed-race first-born-generation Canadian, I was spared the death camps; the forced exodus; and harrowing journeys of my ancestors — arriving with only the clothes on their backs.

I cannot know another's reality or see from their perspective. I don’t represent or presume to put myself in another's shoes.

What I can do is listen — open a door and invite a possibility for harmonious dialogue and the cultivation of unity in diversity. 

I believe reconciliation and healing may begin with a conversation where the intention is to listen and understand; to consider alternative perspectives; practice acceptance, non-judgement and strive for unity in diversity.

Parallel Lines succeeds in engaging people’s hearts and minds through interaction, play and conversation — motivating them to want listen, hear and consequently empathize.

As Artist-in-Residence during the run of the exhibition: I perform; interact with Visitors; facilitate discussions, Sharing Circles; record video testimonials; conduct Artist Talks and walk- throughs; and direct workshops — at the galleries and/or in the community.

PLEASE NOTE: While aiming to create a safe, playful space for conversation, intercultural understanding and healing — we must also recognize the risk of unearthing past trauma and pain. For this reason collaboration with mental health support workers in each region may be helpful. 


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 . . . 

Technical Specifications

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.

*In Memoriam* — includes up to 18 prison beds (configured in rows);

*Fragile* — includes 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.

Canadian History

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)