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News / October 3, 2013

#FreeTarekandJohn Event Added to Nuit Blanche

Destiny Greyson, niece of John Greyson, in a post on the #FreeTarekandJohn portrait petition Destiny Greyson, niece of John Greyson, in a post on the #FreeTarekandJohn portrait petition

At this Saturday’s Scotiabank Nuit Blanche in Toronto, artists aren’t just presenting creative work.

A new Nuit Blanche project, just added this week, also aims to grow a “portrait petition” calling for the release of Canadian artist John Greyson and doctor Tarek Loubani, currently being detained in Egypt.

“John is a friend of mine I have known for a long time,” says Toronto artist Nina Levitt. “I’m very concerned about him and that’s why I started the portrait petition.”

The petition at freetarekandjohn.tumblr.com has been up for roughly two weeks and so far features 280 images. Most show individuals holding written messages of support for the Canadian detainees. Contributors include staff of the Pacific Film Archives in Berkeley, California, and of York University, where Greyson is a faculty member. There are also posts from South Korea, Baltimore and elsewhere.

On the evening of Nuit Blanche on October 5—which marks the 50th day of imprisonment for Greyson and Loubani—the public will be invited to contribute to the portrait petition through photo booths at Toronto City Hall, 401 Richmond Street West and the Gladstone Hotel.

Levitt says that while uploads to the portrait petition are always welcome from any locale, she hopes that bringing a related activity to Nuit Blanche will continue to grow support for Greyson and Loubani’s plight.

“This is a project that comes from the art community and that’s why we are really happy to be part of Nuit Blanche,” Levitt says. “The idea of having access to hundreds of thousands of people is fantastic.”

The project is being supported by the City of Toronto and the Zeidler family, among other individuals and groups. (Artist Christina Zeidler is the owner of the Gladstone Hotel, while her sister, Margie, is president and founder of 401 Richmond.) Prominent advocates for Greyson and Loubani’s cause also include filmmakers Sarah Polley and Barbara Hammer.

Justin Podur, a professor who is a friend of Greyson and Loubani’s and has been a key point of contact for the media, is also slated to speak at an official Nuit Blanche pre-event, Forever Friday, on the evening of October 4 at Toronto City Hall.

Podur recently reported on his blog that Greyson and Loubani had ended a two-week hunger strike.

For more information on the portrait petition, visit freetarekandjohn.tumblr.com. For general updates on the issue, visit tarekandjohn.com and podur.org.

This article was corrected on October 3 and 4, 2013. The original copy posted an incorrect Tumblr address for the portrait petition and an incorrect website link. Canadian Art regrets the error.

Leah Sandals

Leah Sandals is a writer and editor of white settler Canadian (Irish and Ashkenazi) descent. She is also news and special sections editor at Canadian Art and has written for the Toronto Star, National Post and Globe and Mail, among other publications. Sandals welcomes tips, corrections and comments anytime at leah@canadianart.ca.