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Free School - Against the Grain: Documenting Resistance


The Free School draws on the themes inspired by the exhibition (external link)  and book (external link)  documenting the lives of women in Ward 81, a psychiatric institution in Oregon. This documentary work by artist Mary Ellen Mark (external link)  and therapist Karen Folger Jacobs (external link)  raises issues of representation, documentation, incarceration, mental health, ethics, queer histories, resistance and relationships within institutional settings. The Free School aims to engage participants in challenging conversations about the issues inspired by Ward 81.

The Free School will include three inter-related events beginning with a guided historical walking tour led by Geoffrey Reaume of the Wall (external link)  built by psychiatric patients at Queen/Shaw St. This event is followed by a concert held at Tangled Arts + Disability (external link)  with Simone Schmidt (external link)  presenting their work re-imagining the life of inmates (external link)  from Rockwood Asylum for the Criminally Insane. The School concludes with a virtual interdisciplinary panel discussion with Stephanie Latty, Bruno Lessard and Blake Fitzpatrick framing key questions and themes about documentary ethics and representation.


Tour of the 19th-Century Patient Built Wall

Saturday, September 23, 2023 at 1:30 PM

Meeting Point: Southwest corner of Queen St W and Shaw St near the bus shelter.

This walking tour will discuss a history of the nineteenth century patient-built east, west and south boundary walls that are on the grounds of the former Toronto Asylum for the Insane (now CAMH). The purpose of this tour is to remember the lives and abilities of the men and women who worked, lived and died behind these walls during the late 1800s and early 1900s and how a wall built to exclude is now used to include psychiatric patients' histories.

Presenter: Geoffrey Reaume


Geoffrey Reaume has been leading tours of the nineteenth patient-built Toronto Asylum walls since 2000. He is the author of "Remembrance of Patients Past: Patient Life at the Toronto Hospital for the Insane, 1870-1940".

Related Publications:

“A Wall’s Heritage: Making Mad People’s History Public”, Public Disability. November 21, 2016. (external link) 

“Psychiatric Patient Built Wall Tours at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Toronto, 2000 – 2010”, Left History, 15:1 (Fall/Winter 2010-2011): 129-148. Online through Active History: (external link) 

Audible Songs from Rockwood

Thursday, September 28, 2023 from 6:00 - 8:00 PM

Tangled Arts + Disability, 401 Richmond Street West, Suite 124, Toronto ON, M5V 3A8

Registration required

Singer/songwriter Simone Schmidt will perform their show "Audible Songs from Rockwood"  followed by a facilitated discussion with Ken Moffatt. Simone's performance is based on the two years they spent combing through the case files of people incarcerated at The Rockwood Asylum for the Criminally Insane between 1856-1881. Through their performance Schmidt attempts to remember ten women and offers questions about the archive as an apparatus of colonial power, definitions of sanity, and the settler-colonial agenda foundational to today’s carceral systems. This performance is based on the critically acclaimed album by Fiver by the same title.

Musician: Simone Schmidt
Moderator: Ken Moffatt

Simone Schmidt is a musician and multidisciplinary artist who grew up as a settler in Toronto during Mike Harris’ Common Sense Revolution and has been involved in resisting austerity since grade school. Schmidt’s musical practice involves research-based song writing, improvisation, analog recording, and a deep fascination with form. They have performed with units like The Highest Order, One Hundred Dollars, and their solo project, Fiver. Their chapter in Displacement City (U of T Press, 2022) describes the City of Toronto’s organized abandonment of housing-deprived people during the early pandemic, from their perspective as a community organizer.

Ken Moffatt is Professor of Social Work at Toronto Metropolitan University and adjunct professor at McMaster University. He is a researcher with Crafting Community: Arts, Practice, and Research. He is co-creator with Ben McCarthy of the podcast Downstream from What (external link)  focused on art and social justice. He is the author of Columbia University Press Imprint Postmodern Social Work: Reflective Practice and Education (2019). He is interested in the limiting effect of capitalism and neoliberalism on personal expression and well-being as well as imaginative responses to those constraints.

Panel: Documentary Presence: Reflections on Past, Present & Future

Time/Day: Monday, October 2, 2023 from 6:00 to 7:30 PM

Documentary Presence: Reflections on Past, Present & Future is a virtual interdisciplinary panel discussion moderated by Katy McCormick with Stephanie Latty, Bruno Lessard & Blake Fitzpatrick framing key questions and themes about documentary ethics & representation.

Location: Online via Zoom Webinar - Registration required

We will be providing live captioning in English for this event.

Learn more at


Panelist: Blake Fitzpatrick

Social Documentary Photography: Revelation and Resistance

The 1970’s provided a high point for documentary and a photographic practice of making visible those marginalized and hidden from view. In the same decade, alternative voices called for self-reflexive documentary practices attuned to the “politics of representation.” In this presentation, I will discuss practices of documentary revelation and documentary refusal and the ethics of documenting experiences of marginalization with reference to Mary Ellen Mark’s project, Ward 81 (1976) and a “reinvented documentary” as identified by Allan Sekula in “Dismantling Modernism, Reinventing Documentary (Notes on the Politics of Representation),” (1978).


Blake Fitzpatrick is a professor in the School of Image Arts, Toronto Metropolitan University. Fitzpatrick has exhibited his photo-based work in solo and group exhibitions in Canada, the United States and Europe, and his writing and visual work can be found in numerous journals and edited collections including The Cultural Work of Photography in Canada (MQUP, 2011), Camera Atomica (AGO, 2015) and Through Post-Atomic Eyes (MQUP, 2020). He is co-editor with Gerda Cammaer and Bruno Lessard of Critical Distance in Documentary Media (Palgrave Macmillan 2018). Most recently, he co-edited with Jonathan Bordo, Place Matters: Critical Topographies in Word and Image and contributed a chapter on the “walking artist,” Hamish

Fulton (MQUP, 2022).

Panelist: Bruno Lessard

The Documentary Triangle: Making, Teaching, Writing

This presentation will address the triangular relationship between documentary making, documentary teaching, and documentary scholarship. I will argue that the various ways of documenting an experience, at least in my work as an artist, are informed by my teaching and research activities, and that I no longer see these three fields as separate but as an integrated whole. That is to say that my image-making is unthinkable without my teaching and research; that my teaching activities require the field experience of the artist and the knowledge base of the researcher / writer; and that my scholarly writings would be drastically different if I couldn’t draw on my experience as an image-maker and teacher of documentary works.

This previous description concerns how I envisage documenting these days: only by exploring the triangular relationship between these often-separate spheres can I do an admittedly good job in each area I believe. The reason why relates to how I situate my practice as an artist and teacher on the margins of what is found within the contemporary art scene and academia. This also concerns the notion of otherness and who qualifies as an “other” today, and who is qualified to document a given subject. I will draw on my experiences in the non-Western world to flesh out some of these concerns about positionality.


An award-winning researcher, Dr. Bruno Lessard is the author of The Art of Subtraction: Digital Adaptation and the Object Image (University of Toronto Press) and co-editor of the collection Critical Distance in Documentary Media (Palgrave Macmillan). He has also co-edited a teaching media dossier on documentary pedagogy for the Journal of Cinema and Media Studies. His monograph on Chinese documentary filmmaker Wang Bing, The Cinema of Wang Bing: Chinese Documentary between History and Labor, will be published by Hong Kong University Press later this year. His current book manuscript focuses on the writings of Franco-Cambodian documentary filmmaker Rithy Panh. As a photo-based artist, Dr. Lessard has focused on changing urban landscapes in Canada and China, and he has sought to revive night photography and non-figurative photographic practices within a documentary context.

Panelist: Stephanie Latty

Haunting the Archive: Race, Gender and Absence

Dr. Latty's presentation will explore the intersections of race, gender and archival absences. She will discuss what must be considered to confront these absences, including questions about the representation of racialized people, incarceration and medical violence.


Dr. Stephanie Latty is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Criminology at Toronto Metropolitan University. She received her Ph.D from the University of Toronto in the Collaborative Women and Gender Studies Program in the Department of Social Justice Education. Stephanie’s areas of research include Black feminisms, critical race theory, anti-Blackness, carcerality, gendered violence, and abolition. Her current research examines the media and legal discourses surrounding Black women and girls who have experienced strip-searching and other forms of state violence in Canada. Stephanie’s research has been published in Somatechnics, Lateral, the Critical Ethnic Studies Journal (with Megan Scribe, Alena Peters and Anthony Morgan), The Lauryn Hill Reader (with Sefanit Habtom and Eve Tuck).

Moderator: Katy McCormick
Moderator: Katy McCormick

Katy McCormick is a photo-based artist whose work examines commemorative sites, revealing narratives embedded in landscapes. Since 2014, she has been a member of the Atomic Photographers Guild (external link) , an international group of photographers who critically represent the nuclear age. Her ongoing project, Rooted among the Ashes: Hibakujumoku / The A-bombed Trees, begun in 2008, comprises a series of portraits of Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivor trees currently on view at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum (external link)  in Independence, Missouri. The work was previously shown at the Quaker Heritage Center, Wilmington College, Ohio, and was featured in Through Post-atomic Eyes (2020) and Place Matters (2022), both published by McGill-Queens University Press. McCormick is associate professor and interim chair of the School of Image Arts where she teaches photography, book arts and documentary media in both undergraduate and graduate programs. In 2021, she was awarded the Yeates School of Graduate Studies Outstanding Contribution to Graduate Education Award. Prior to joining TMU she was exhibition coordinator and managing editor at Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography, Toronto.