Surrounded by scrolls of rice paper, nibbed pens and pots of organic red ink, Colette Sparkes (BFA 97) sat in the McConnell Building atrium on December 6, quietly writing. She was commemorating the 14 women murdered at the Polytechnique in 1989.
Reaction to Sparkes' "intervention" varied widely, from complete disinterest to people stopping to read the pale-beet-coloured texts and, in many cases, sitting down to write a few words of their own. Sparkes said she was astounded by the response of the Concordia community.
"Some stayed for a few minutes; one woman stayed for an hour. Another thanked me for being here and remembering. I got that feeling from so many people, men and women," Sparkes recalled last week. A spoken-word and community-based artist, Sparkes is accustomed to performing in public spaces. On December 6, though, she chose silent reflection as her medium. This prompted one passerby to ask if her silence was somehow perpetuating the culture of silence and violence against women.
"There is so much anger, tension and angst on that day," Sparkes explained. "Instead of feeding on that anger, I really wanted to create a calm, open and meditational space for other people's voices."
Sparkes noted that rice paper is a difficult paper to be angry on. "Colour bleeds, and if you want to be able to read what you're writing, you have to be so calm. One woman really realized it when she sat down to write, and she was so angry that the pen was grabbing the fibres of the paper."
Concordians were also invited to write on the scroll on December 7, at an event that was organized by the Concordia Women's Centre and hosted by Sparkes.
As a student and developing artist, Sparkes was influenced by such Concordia artists and teachers as Devora Neumark, P.K. Langshaw, Bonnie Baxter and Laurel Woodcock.
- Debbie Hum