My installation in a storefront gallery window in Toronto reproduces a carbon copy of a two-page letter dated March 27, 1946—exactly 70 years to the day the work was installed—written by an unnamed Major in the British War Office to the parents of Special Operations Executive agent, Violette Szabo, née Bushell (1921-1945) who was murdered at Ravensbrück, Hitler’s concentration camp for women.
The letter reproduced in this installation represents the official account of Violette Szabo’s movements after being arrested, and her death. Declared as missing in action in June 1944, her death was only confirmed one year after the war, thanks to the single-handed efforts of one woman, Squadron Officer Vera Atkins, who doggedly searched for the 13 British women under her command who did not return after Liberation. (In 2008 I produced an installation memorializing Vera Atkins and another agent, Hannah Senesh, for the Koffler Gallery.)
By printing the letter on transparent vinyl, the materiality of the original onionskin paper, with its folds and wrinkles is highlighted, and the back and front of the letter can be seen through each other. Curiously, whoever typed the original letter used the front and back of one sheet of paper for the carbon copy. The (invisible) hand of the archivist is implied in the production of these scans that are somewhat different shapes possibly because the back page was smoothed out to make it more legible.
On a very personal note, I found this document during research at the National Archives in London many years ago, and I have used it in several previous artworks. However I was compelled to create this version because March 27, 2016 marked five months since my partner Melissa Levin died, so the date reverberated for me across time and space. As I continued to grieve, making artwork is one of the ways I can try to grapple with this loss.