After emerging as the successful candidate from a pool of over two dozen applicants, Edmonton-based artist Leanne Olson began her gig as the city’s first-ever artist-in-residence at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre on Monday.
“I think waste in general is fascinating,” Olson told Global News. “It’s a necessary part of life but we don’t see it.”
The University of Alberta film studies graduate has previously completed artist residencies in Banff and Toronto but this potentially stinky stint will likely present some new challenges for Olson.
“I’ve been going through various types of training,” she said. “There’s so many different buildings and facilities and (for) each one, I have to learn the hazards and figure out the proper gear. So we’re going to figure out logistics of where I can shoot.”
Olson said her work will likely see her focus on photography.
“The site itself is a work of art — the ways that the piles are stacked, the ways that the waste is shuffled around the facility,” she said.
“I think I initially thought, ‘I don’t know if I need to make anything? I think I just want to document what’s happening.'”
Olson said she is still considering working with video and sound. In any case, she believes the concept of consumption will figure prominently in her work.
“I want to think about some of the root causes for waste,” she said. “There is perhaps unnecessary packaging a lot of the time and there’s systematic waste, so I’m interested in maybe the psychology of why we consume certain things that are wasteful.”
The Edmonton Arts Council’s request for proposals when it posted the position stipulated the artist would be tasked with reflecting “their residency experience through their work, and will have access to recycled materials from the facility, as well as potentially mentoring the artistic expression of interested staff and community.”
Olson will produce at least one public showing of work and will work regular hours during the operating hours of the facility.
The Edmonton Waste Management Centre is an advanced garbage facility where organics in garbage are sorted and sent to the composter, where they are mixed with treated sewage sludge and wood chips to create compost.
“It’s such a big space,” Olson told Global News, adding that to her, it will be fascinating “just to be around a forgotten part of society.”
According to Olson’s website, her work has thus far focused on “documenting impermanence and adaption to changing environmental conditions.”
–With files from Karen Bartko