One of the first public commemorations of the pandemic, COVID in the House of Old brings stories from a national humanitarian crisis to Canadians and asks them to take action.
The exhibit was created by Megan J. Davies (curator, writer, interviewer) with Hiroki Tanaka (artist, musician, digital creator) and Kohen Hammond (audio editor, podcast producer).
Thank you to the people who breathed life into this project:
Pat Armstrong, Matthew Assiniwe, Albert Banerjee, Rachel Barken, Anne Marie Barrett, Doreen Bible, Michele Billung-Meyer, Bernadette Cheung, Antoniette Cheung, Colin Coates, Bryn Coates-Davies, Mab Coates-Davies, Stephen Collis, Linda Croall, “Esther”, Courtney Fraser, Kim Fraser, Stephen Goring, Sally Gose, Noreen Grange, Bruce Grond, Helen Grond, Jacobus Grond, Steve Hammond, Sonia Hardern, Margot Harrison, Cindy Jiang, Paula Jardine, Anne Kelly, Mary-Ellen Kelm, Michelle LeBlanc, Ron Lee, Gabriel Levine, Karen Ann Lewis, Nora Loreto, Christine Lyons, Darrel Manitowabi, Sharon Meen, Tamara Myers, Judith N, Lori Nawrot, Michelle Nyberg, Cheryl Osawabine-Peltier, Caroline Paulson, Joy Paulson, Maria Anna Parolin, Diane Purvey, Jen Rinaldi, Elaine Savoie, Marcie Schlick, Andrew Sixsmith, Linda Steele, Jim Struthers, Pat Thane, Jessica Ticar, Ethel Tungohan, the manager at the Cloverdale paint store in Kitsilano, participants in the Old Age Care in Times of Crisis Symposium, April 2021, London, UK.
And special gratitude to these essential creatives:
This project was supported by a Jack and Doris Shadbolt Fellowship in the Humanities and the Department of Gerontology at Simon Fraser University and York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies.
Curator & Artist Notes
Megan J. Davies – Curator’s Notes
Stories hold so much power. This project employs story-telling methods typically used by oral historians to present an important issue of our time. I followed practices that I developed with colleagues at Madness Canada, which are about giving voice, making space, and emergent design. As COVID in the House of Old took shape, I was reminded that public-facing scholars need to be open to the possibilities that develop from relationships and situations and alert to the moment when they should shift from control to facilitation.
Having interviewees create a “Valentine” acknowledgement with beautiful paper, coloured pens, scissors and glue sticks after a difficult interview was inspired, allowing time for easy conversation and a cup of tea. A new practice for me.
This project is profoundly personal and deeply political for me. It brings together knowledges and insights from decades of research on aging and work providing waged and family eldercare.
Megan J. Davies is a historian of health with a regional focus on BC. She currently works on old age, madness, and everyday medicine. As part of the MadnessCanada.com community, Megan has participated in a number of academic-community collaborations, most notably the 2013 documentary, The Inmates Are Running the Asylum. In January 2022, with the support of a Shadbolt Fellowship, Megan launched COVID in the House of Old, a public exhibit, website and podcast.
Kohen Hammond – Artist’s Notes
Working on COVID in the House of Old has provided an opportunity for me to combine my work in audio with my interest in social justice and activism.
The process of creating and editing together these interviews for me has felt similar to home movies and home recordings. The interviews are filled with stories and moments that are incredibly personal to an individual or family but yet they still manage to speak to universal truths.
It has been an honour to be able to play a part in telling these stories to create a way to memorialize and reflect on the profound loss that has happened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kohen Hammond is an audio engineer, composer, and guitarist from Toronto, Ontario. He works in a variety of different mediums from music, to theatre, to podcasts. His music takes influence from a vast range of subjects such as: contemporary classical, folk, nature, and literature. He has released two albums under his name, Fragments of Moments and Written in the Margins.
Hiroki Tanaka – Artist’s Notes
Megan invited me to a project meeting in the spring of 2021 and I brought the germ of an idea for an audio-visual piece to accompany the installation. I took BC and Ontario data on the number of deaths of residents and healthcare workers in long-term care homes during COVID, and I would represent the data sonically and visually.
While I had some basic familiarity, I began learning how to write in the programming language Max/MSP in earnest for this project. My thanks to Tommy Martinez and various members of the Max/MSP online community for providing guidance and assistance. My work is presented via a project and single speaker. Each loss of life is represented by a coloured dot, and a musical note. The result is an aleatoric “elegy”, in both image and sound.
Placed within the same space as the stories and objects of loss that Megan has provided, this installation provides both a micro and macro view of the pain and loss that has thus afflicted LTC’s during the pandemic.
Hiroki Tanaka is an artist living in Toronto. In 2020, he released his debut solo album, “Kaigo Kioku Kyoku” (caregiving memory songs), based on his experience as a caregiver for his grandmother with Alzheimer’s and his uncle with terminal cancer.