Visualizing Absence: Memorializing the histories of the former Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital grounds

The photographs in this post were taken by current student Anne Zbitnew. This exhibition will be at the L Space Gallery until July 3, 2015. Please go Visualizing Absence for more details.

A photograph of a room with  benches and a suitcase in the foreground. In the background are plinths and hanging dresses.

Visualizing Absence: Memorializing the histories of the former Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital grounds is a collaborative arts-based research response to archival images, patient records, and hidden and lost stories and memories that constitute Humber College’s historic Lakeshore grounds.

 A photograph of a black bench with an old suitcase filled with white gloves

These grounds are traditional territory of the Ojibway Anishinaabe people who have lived along the Humber waterways and travelled extensively throughout the Great Lakes region. They know this area as Adobigok, or “place of the alders.” Their name for the region is where we get our modern-day Etobicoke.

 a photograph of a wall with 18 photos and a felt and twig installation to the right

The Lakeshore grounds and new and existing buildings are situated on a corridor along the Humber River where First Nations people travelled for thousands of years.  We stand here today, where many Humber College students and their ancestors have walked (Charles, 2015).

 a photograph of a nurses uniform

Researcher and artist Anne Zbitnew, in collaboration with artists Ala Asadchaya, Alison Brenzil, Dave Clark, Stas Guzar, Susan Mentis, Lucy Pauker, and Hannah Zbitnew,  use a variety of media to publicly recover untold hidden and forgotten histories. We respect the past by recognizing our research site as Aboriginal land, and by remembering the psychiatric patients who built, lived, worked, and died here.

 A photograph of three white nightgowns embroidered together

This project follows Dr. Geoffrey Reaume (2000) and other mad historians, activists, artists and allies who tell stories in a historical context from a psychiatric patient perspective.

 a photograph of the embroidery on a white night gown

Turning the Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital into a college is a fitting tribute to the patients who built this site with their unpaid labour.

 a group of people at the exhibition

Humber College is a place of education and enlightenment. By acknowledging the past, Humber recovers pieces of its own history and advances its community and cultural contributions to knowledge and awareness of contemporary Mental Heath stigma (Males, 2014).

 A photograph of Anne introducing the event in a crowd of visitors

To paraphrase Thomas King (2003):

Take these stories.  Do with them what you will.  Tell your friends, ignore them, forget them.  But don’t say that you would live your life differently if you had only heard these stories.  You have heard them now.

a photograph of a woman attaching a prayergram to a tree

Wednesday, May 20th, Marg ties her great aunt Grace’s prayergram.

Grace was institutionalized at the age of 19.  She wrote a letter to her mother telling
her that the doctor said she could go home if she came to get her.  The letter was
never mailed and Grace never went home.  She died 60 years later as a patient of the
Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital and is buried in an unmarked grave at the Lakeshore Psychiatric
Hospital Cemetery.

1,511 prayergrams remember all the people who are buried in the cemetery in unmarked graves.

They are tied to trees outside the LSpace Gallery.

a photographs of prayergrams blowing in the wind

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