Union Gallery

Image of the Gallery

project room

EPIC Moment: Selection of posters and video screening in support of prison justice

Mary Tremonte | Kristiana Clemens | Niqolai Gryphon | Sallux

Carina Magazzeni | Barb Danielewski | Felicia Yong | Ellyn Walker | Yaniya Lee

February 9 - March 19, 2016 | Reception: Wednesday February 24, 5-7pm

In January 2016 the Union Gallery invited Queen’s students and local community members to participate in Poster ACTION., a collaborative workshop with EPIC Kingston that focused on prison abolitionism and prison justice. This exhibition features posters created by the workshop participants and a video screening of A Fly in the Ointment, a film written, narrated, and directed by former inmate Peter Collins. Workshop artist Mary Tremonte, a Toronto-based community-based artist and co-founding member of Justseeds Artist Cooperative—a global network of activist print-makers—facilitated opportunities for participants to engage with a broad range of artistic strategies and representational materials.

End the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC) is a member-led and member-run prison abolition group based in Kingston, Ontario. EPIC’s mission is to abolish punishment as a form of correcting “complicated social problems”.

Mary Tremonte is an artist, educator, and DJ based in Toronto via Pittsburgh. She works with “printmaking in the expanded field,” including printstallation, interactive silkscreen printing in public space, and wearable artist multiples such as queer scout badges. Mary has exhibited, presented lectures and workshops, and performed in Toronto, Pittsburgh, throughout the United States, and internationally. Through her work she aims to create temporaryutopias and sustainable commons through pedagogy, collaboration, visual pleasure and serious fun.

A Fly in the Ointment accompanies the exhibition as it aims to speak more broadly to the depth of isolation and deprivation that prisoners endure. The film touches on “some unimaginably dark moments with rawness, honesty and vulnerability”. Collins writes, “People on the inside are quite literally cut off from the world, and they need to know that people on the outside know and care about what is happening to them.”

Peter Collins was in prison for more than 30 years until his death in 2015 and was one of Canada’s longest-serving prisoners. He was incarcerated at Bath Institution near Kingston, Ontario. Collins is an award-winning human rights activist, writer, artist and peer health educator. In 2008, he was awarded the Canadian Award for Action on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights for his work fighting for the health and human rights of prisoners. He has tutored others in prison, led seminars on HIV and Hepatitis-C prevention, and helps individuals prepare for parole hearings. While incarcerated, he taught himself to play the guitar and to paint. He has become a champion of prison justice issues and is a vocal advocate on issues such as systemic racism, overcrowding, harm reduction programs, and the importance of remembering those who have died behind prison walls.

Collins, who was convicted of the murder of a police officer, has been eligible for full parole since 2008 but has been repeatedly denied. He was raised in Canada but has British citizenship and is under a deportation order that would see him immediately sent to the UK if released. This put him in a catch-22 as the parole board claimed it had inadequate mechanisms to ensure mandatory supervision in a foreign country, despite his submission of a comprehensive release plan in England. Collins was diagnosed with aggressive, terminal cancer and told he had only months to live. His case was been sent to the parole board for another early hearing under a provision allowing for compassionate release of dying prisoners.

Collins was originally placed in the Secure Housing Unit of a super-max prison and spent long stretches in solitary confinement, including a six-month period when he was falsely accused of another prisoner’s murder. He recently wrote, narrated and directed from inside prison this short film called Fly in the Ointment about a prolonged period he spent in solitary.

      —Adapted from article by Garrett Zehr from Solitary Watch

Peter Collins passed away in prison on August 13, 2015. He was denied compassionate release and the parole board chose to make him and the people who loved him suffer until the bitter end. In an environment that is designed to crush people’s spirits and dehumanize them, Pete maintained his sense of self, his integrity, his humour, his creativity, his kind and loving nature and his drive to make change in this world.

For more information on Peter’s experience with Palliative care in prison, see the following website: http://cowstongue.com/

Peter’s story is not unique. For more information on prisoner justice go to: