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#silenceisviolence: Installation brings attention to an important issue

Two members of the Feminist Art Gallery prepare the installation #silenceisviolence in the Instructional Centre. The work will be on display until June 5.

If you’ve been to the Instructional Centre over the last few weeks, you will probably have noticed the striking artwork on the west wall of the atrium. It depicts activists in black and white, many holding protest signs. 

Perhaps you’ve read the text adjacent to the installation. But if not, you’re probably wondering what it’s about. 

In January 2017, U of T implemented its Sexual Violence Policy. In anticipation, the Doris McCarthy Gallery on the U of T Scarborough campus, commissioned Toronto’s Feminist Art Gallery to create something that would contribute to the ongoing discussion of sexual violence in Canada. The artwork #silenceisviolence is the result. 

“We want to raise students’ awareness of the new policy, and offer a challenge to action,” says Ann MacDonald, Director of the Doris McCarthy Gallery. “The fearless women presented in the artwork are catalysts who can inspire us to create strategies that will end sexual violence on campuses.”

The installation depicts topics that might not be obviously about sexual violence, such as white supremacy, colonialism and other structural inequalities. But, as the artists’ statement says, these conditions “breed and even encourage sexual violence.”

The Feminist Art Gallery is an activist gallery that aims at effecting change. Many recognizable activists can be found in the work. For example, there’s Emma Sulkowicz, who for her senior thesis in visual arts at Columbia University carried her mattress while she was on campus to protest the university’s handling of her alleged rape by another student.

The title #silenceisviolence is a tribute to activist and student movements that are working to end sexual violence, as well as a reference to how multiple factors contribute to the harm caused by complacency, fear and suppression of information.

The title is also the hashtag. The two galleries welcome conversation, using #silenceisviolence on social media. The installation will be in place until June 5.


© University of Toronto Scarborough