As part of the Luminato arts festival, there was an installation at Fort York called The Encampment.
Basically, there were 200 tents erected on the grounds of the Fort, each one with an installation to commemorate a person (I think a civilian) in the Canadas during the time of the War of 1812.
There was a little program, listing names of each person commemorated, and the artist.
Some of the representations of people were relatively easy to parse, like upturned pots representing children, only one of whom lived to adulthood….
… or the whole Strachan family, names still very much present in Toronto street names and neighbourhoods.
Sometimes, even when cryptic, the simple images were searing.
The occasional one referred to someone more historically known, like the woman who was thought to be (one of) the last of the Beothuk, Demasduit.
But I really found myself wanting to know a lot more narrative from most of them, though, not just a sense of the experience, or flutter of memory. This person was clearly a slave trader:
This one had a good to do list going:
And this one… just created wonder and awe.
Collectively, the images added up to lives, flickers of memory, slips of what’s known. Simultaneously, I wanted more, and I also appreciated the perspective of one sliver, one interpretation of a life, recognized that a biographical beginning, middle and end might not be any more satisfactory. A long list, tents stretching forward, civilian ghosts, as one such-labeled empty tent reminded us.