Artifacts of Grief
Jan 21
Jan 30 2022
exhibition in-person

‘Artifacts of Grief’ welcomes visitors of the 2022 DesignTO Festival to understand, question and process our individual and collective grief. 

Throughout this pandemic, we have been asked, encouraged and mandated to keep 6ft apart from each other for our own safety. The physical distance between us has exacerbated pre-existing (though seemingly newly created) emotional, mental, socio-economic and racial divides that have contributed to a great deal of loss. As a consequence, we as a collective must now  contend with how to host and hold grief. 

‘Artifacts of Grief’ is an invitation to explore and express individual and collective grief and grieving, extended to spark more conversation and storytelling around this ever-present experience.

Through community engagement and co-creation workshops, a series of five-word sentences about grief were collected, and those we have received so far have been transformed into three creative expressions of collective grief (with more to come). 

This project attempts to address the many places where we are exercising, expanding, and deepening our individual and collective ability to hold and host grief. 

‘Artifacts of Grief’ imagines that each person who encounters the art exhibition is bringing with them their own lived experiences and stories. It invites them to merge their lived experiences and stories with those of others, to mirror the ways in which  we each impact one another even while we are apart. 

‘Artifacts of Grief’ is pleased to share space with ‘The Grief Gallery’  through an in-person exhibition at MADE Design. 

Following the in-person installation of ‘Artifacts of Grief’, the content will be inspiration for additional creative expressions, starting with 2 songs and a bus shelter ad. Each creative expression of ‘Artifacts of Grief’ is an invitation to start a conversation about individual and collective loss. Look out for those creative expressions to come in Spring 2022.

‘Artifacts of Grief’ is presented by designer, researcher and facilitator Jennifer Chan as a part of the inaugural FLDWRK x DesignTO Residency ‘6ft (a)part’.  Jenn (she/her) is second-generation Chinese-Canadian, a Mama, a partner, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a struggling idealist, a pandemic-induced extroverted introvert, a recovering perfectionist aka super Virgo and CEO/co-founder of the Department of Imaginary Affairs. 

Project Background

Beginning in 2020, Jennifer Chan has become a bit obsessed with learning about how people are grappling with grief that has been exacerbated by the pandemic. 

This work is informed by grief literacy training offered by being here, human, and focuses on the various ways we as individuals process grief. This work builds upon the following definitions shared by facilitators Rachelle Bensoussan and Michelle Williams as a part of the training:  

  • Grief: “Our whole being’s involuntary response to loss”
  • Loss: “The severing of something or someone to whom we have held great attachment”
  • Mourning: “What we “do” with our grief; grief gone public.”

During ‘Artifacts of Grief’, visitors are invited to participate in a co-creation process and contribute to ongoing research about how we might spark conversations and storytelling about grief and grieving. 

One of the key themes that has emerged during this work is the jolting back-and-forth between the  anticipation of re-opening and the grief of closures and lockdowns throughout the pandemic. 

As Ontario goes into lockdown once again, this art exhibit invites visitors to share their experiences. Throughout this pandemic, we have collectively experienced losses, some big and some small. Each loss is valid, though not all losses are equal. 

This work continues to question and ponder the following questions: 

  • What would it look like if Toronto was able to host and hold grief? 
  • What can we do together to process the collective grief we are experiencing? 
  • What might a grief-informed recovery look like? 

While it’s natural to want to wave a wand and make all the pain disappear, that is just not possible. So, instead, this residency and the broader research project it is nested within, continues to explore how we might support each other through our individual and collective grief and grieving. 

This residency offered the opportunity to explore potential pit stops along a much longer journey of exploration toward understanding how to design for a grief-informed recovery. 

The products showcased through this residency are mementos of a design researcher’s scrapbook. However, much like how a matchbook collected from a restaurant doesn’t tell you about the flavours or smells of the meal or who the meal was shared with, these mementos are intended to provoke thought and reflection around particular aspects of grief, rather than represent the entirety of the experience. 

To follow along with this project, and how ‘Artifacts of Grief’ impacts our research effort as a whole, find us on social media on Instagram @dia_space and on the web at


Jennifer Chan, Mathura Mahendren, Ari Para, Elvin Velasco, Amira Rakik, Daphny Villalona, Daniel James Sheppard, Mina Hur, Maneesa Veeravel, Jobelle de Leon, Teshyla Bailey, Zeba Tayabee, Reenita, Frances Quintero Rawlings, Constanza Ceardi Farias, Daisy Nolasco, Joy Smith-Brown, Mitra Alizadeh, Bahareh Asady, Nicole Sutherland, Elena Soto Chico, Maria A. Vassiliou, Joanna Delos Reyes, Deluxson Yogarajah, Sarah Waithe, ruth titus, Maggie To, Carmen Leardi, Doan Nguyen, Linh Nguyen, Samuel Casais, Ysh Cabana, Seham Aref, Lidia Jarmasz, Najla Bahri, Elvan Duras, Soofia Mahmood, Herminia Garcia, Louisa Yue-Chan, Hardip Kaur, Ixchel A. Cervantes



Who should visitors contact with questions regarding accessibility?
Shaun Moore
Can people get to the venue using accessible transit?
Photo taken at 'Artifacts of Grief' at DesignTO opening in January 2022. Photo shows paper strips with English writing. Photo credit to the Department of Imaginary Affairs.
Photo taken at 'Artifacts of Grief' at DesignTO opening in January 2022. Photo shows paper strips with Arabic writing. Photo credit to the Department of Imaginary Affairs.