Osgoode Artist in Residence wraps Kingston Pen photo around part of Law School

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WHO: Cindy Blazevic, 2013-14 Artist in Residence, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

WHAT: Through A Prison System, Darkly: Criminal Justice Through the Lens of Kingston Penitentiary (2013-15)

WHEN: Public reception on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, 1 to 3pm, at front entrance of Law School

WHERE: Osgoode Hall Law School on the Keele Campus of York University. See #32 on map.

As Osgoode’s inaugural Artist in Residence, Toronto-based visual artist Cindy Blazevic photographed Kingston Penitentiary after it closed its doors in 2013. “Seeing KP at the end of its life, without prisoners, allows us to see artifacts of lives lived within the building as well as the inherent limitations not only of this particular institution, but of any prison,” she said.

In order to better contextualize the photographs and what they might mean to different viewers, Blazevic then collaborated with upper-year Osgoode students to create a legal and historical narrative for those images, focusing on the challenges facing the Canadian penal system.

The result is the photo-based artwork, Through A Prison System, Darkly: Criminal Justice Through the Lens of Kingston Penitentiary, which will live permanently on kingpen.osgoode.yorku.ca, and which is accessible to the visual and hearing impaired. “The website is a choose-your-own adventure,” said Blazevic, who received Canada Council for the Arts and Ontario Arts Council funding for the project. “I don’t expect anyone to read or listen to the whole thing, but rather to be able to dip in and out. No matter where you land, it’ll be thought-provoking, maybe even perspective-altering.”

Osgoode Dean Lorne Sossin said the Law School is very proud of its bold and innovative Artist in Residence program, which annually brings artists to the School to explore the connections between artistic creativity, and justice and the law. “We are delighted to have this opportunity to display Cindy Blazevic’s compelling photography and to express our appreciation for her contributions as the Law School’s inaugural Artist in Residence.”

For Blazevic’s exhibition at Osgoode, a 600-square-foot installation of the photograph Colonialism, Continued, 2013, has been wrapped around the exterior of the Law School’s east-facing glass structure. The installation will be exhibited until March 2016.

The image is an illustration of a Plains-style teepee superimposed onto a photo of a small, enclosed prison yard, a place where Indigenous cultural practices would often take place inside Kingston Pen. The image references the problematic relationship between Aboriginals and the justice system, as well as systemic problems that have their roots in colonialism.
The URL and scan code beneath (kingpen.osgoode.yorku.ca/cc) link directly to an audio narration by Jeffery Hewitt LLB ‘96, General Counsel to Chippewas of Rama First Nation who served as a McMurtry Visiting Clinical Fellow at Osgoode in 2013-14. Hewitt was one of 11 stakeholders interviewed for Blazevic’s project.

“Transforming a part of the School’s exterior into a window on justice ensures a certain accessibility to the art and to some of the complex concepts with which students engage inside this building, which are, at their root, universal,” Blazevic said.

Other perspectives were contributed by Howard Sapers, Correctional Investigator of Canada; Kim Pate, Executive Director, Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies; Alan Munn, Architect; Justice Mara Greene; Jason Godin, Vice-President, Union of Canadian Correctional Officers; Jeff Tousignant, Parole Officer at Collins Bay Institution and a former Correctional Officer at KP; Osgoode Professors Margaret Beare and Alan Young, who is also a victim’s rights advocate; Mike Richards, former KP prison tutor; a former prisoner; and Dave St. Onge, Curator of Canada’s Penitentiary Museum.

Essays and research were provided by Osgoode students Kristine Gorman, Pamela Hinman, Petter Hurich, Clifford McCarten, Ebony Rose, Melanie Thomas and Simon Wallace.
An image list is available. Please inquire.

In addition, visitors to the Law School on Sept. 16 will also see a 10-minute Counterbalance performance at 12:30pm by 2014-15 Artist in Residence Julie Lassonde (separate media release to follow) and meet 2015-16 Artists in Residence Kami Chisholm and Nadine Valcin.

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Media Contact: Virginia Corner, Communications Manager, Osgoode Hall Law School of York University, 416-736-5820, vcorner@osgoode.yorku.ca