Boundary|Time|Surface

Boundary|Time|Surface was a site-specific ephemeral sculptural installation that took as its basis the internationally recognized designation of the geological boundary between the Cambrian and Ordovician periods at Green Point, Newfoundland.

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Stratigraphic Column adapted from: R.A. Cooper, G.S. Nowlan, and S.H. Williams 2001 “Global Stratotype Section and Point for base of the Ordovician System. Episodes, Vol 24, no.1.

Just as individuals speak colloquially of  “crossing the line” or “drawing a line in the sand”  or even “invading our personal space” to mark various limits (and points of transgression), so too socio-political entities create borders, erect boundary markers, declare and define limits. Limits for time, limits for physical space, and limits which identify places, things, and people. But these limits are rarely – if ever – truly fixed or static: they are essentially arbitrary and subjective creations that fulfill specific needs at a given time, and are also often subject to forces beyond their creators’ control.

Boundary|Time|Surface thus presents an intervention within the landscape that simultaneously inscribes the human impulse to define and contain things much larger than ourselves, and the arbitrary nature of such actions.

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Image courtesy M.E. Cooke.

This work was created over a single four-hour period during the falling tide on June 22, 2014, on the shore at Green Point, in Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland. The installation consisted of 52 found driftwood poles and roughly 300 rocks, all from Green Cove and Green Point, moved and positioned by hand in advance of installation day by me and my assistant, geologist John Waldron. The installation itself was built collaboratively by me, John, and 6 additional volunteers: Anne Marceau, Michael Burzynski, Renee Martin, Lisa Liu, Shawna White, and Ryan Lacombe. The work was 150 metres in length when completed, and the poles ranged in height between roughly 1.8 to 2.4 metres. Evidence of its existence remained at the site for approximately 48 hours: 34 poles has been felled by the tide by sunset on June 22 2014; 5 remained standing on the morning of June 23 2014; and one remained on the 24th.

Some time lapse video of the dissolution of Boundary|Time|Surface,  on June 22 2014:

Copyright 2014, Sydney Lancaster. All rights reserved.

Blog posts about the project can be found herehereherehere, and here – and you can find interviews regarding the project on Arts East and Creative Gros Morne.

Images of Boundary|Time|Surface:

This work was made during the “Art in the Park” Artist in Residence Program, an initiative of Parks Canada and The Rooms, St John’s NL;  the artist gratefully acknowledges the support of the Canada Council and Parks Canada for this Residency program.

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Exhibition Information

The second iteration of Boundary|Time|Surface is on exhibition at the Art Gallery of St. Albert, September 5 – November 2, 2019. This exhibition includes four new mixed-media wall-based works, a completely redesigned projection-mapped video installation with new footage, a large-scale presentation of a time-lapse video fo the creation and destruction of the site-specific installation, in addition to a fabric installation work and a photo installation from the original exhibition.

Boundary Echo silk panel installation; Limits: Intervention video work in background 2019
Limits:Intervention projection-mapped video installation 2019

In addition, I am very pleased to announce the publication of Boundary|Time|Surface – a record of change to coincide with this exhibition. This is a limited-edition artist book with catalogue section, featuring a critical essay by art historian and independent curator Melinda Pinfold, PhD; an essay on the history of geology as a science, by Dr. John Waldron, and an essay and poetry by me.

Available EXCLUSIVELY through the Art Gallery of St. Albert until November 2 2019.

Boundary|Time|Surface was exhibited for the first time at the Discovery Centre Gallery in Gros Morne National Park, just outside Woody Point NL. This is a multi-media, installation-based body of work exploring (and expanding upon) many of the concerns underlying the creation of the original installation.

This body of interrelated work considers different scales of time and types of memory; by extension, Boundary|Time|Surface is an extended visual meditation upon our relationship to the land and place, time, and the ‘how’ and ‘why’  of the ways we organize our lives.

Some writing about the exhibition can found here and here.

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The artist gratefully acknowledges the Alberta Foundation for the Arts for their support in developing the documentation of the original project for exhibition.

21st Century Nesting Practices & NEST

21st Century Nesting Practices has developed over a five-year period (2012 – 2017), including a one-year Residency and solo exhibition at Harcourt House Artist-Run Centre in Edmonton, and further exhibitions at Fleishman Gallery, Toronto, in ‘At Odds’ at Art Gallery of St. Albert, and as part of ‘Elsewhere’ at Gallery @ 501 in Sherwood Park AB. For the most recent exhibition at the McMullen Gallery, I am presenting new video and audio work arising from further research and work in sound and installation, including my own field recordings and some from the Cornell Ornithology Library, used with permission & deep thanks for their support.

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21st Century Nesting Practices considers the human penchant for investing objects in the material world with significance – most specifically, this work explores the tangible reality of specific objects and its relationship to what those objects may signify psychologically or emotionally to people. Gaston Bachelard observes that

“A nest-house is never young. … For not only do we come back to it, but we dream of coming back to it, the way a bird comes back to it, or a lamb to the fold. This sign of return marks an infinite number of daydreams, for the reason that human returning takes place in the great rhythm of human life, a rhythm that reaches back across the years and, through the dream, combats all absence.”

While Bachelard offers some useful insights here, I also find his analysis almost willfully incomplete. It dismisses the idea that the association between ‘nestand ‘home’ could simultaneously resist and embody longing or absence, through the very object from which the associations come. This provoked a several-years-long field of inquiry for me, toward understanding the connections between the actual process of making (and re-making) nests that birds enact, and human resilience.

What of the tenuous nature of the nest itself? In human terms, nests are deeply evocative of security, warmth, comfort, home, and family. The reality of the nest-as-object is, however, contingent and often precarious: it is at once a source of protection and exposed to the elements, subject to the potential for destruction at any point. Does this apparent contradiction not speak on some deeper level to a visceral human understanding of the simultaneous fragility and necessity of both emotional and physical spaces of rest and safety?

The ‘mind-nest’ each person creates is continually rebuilt and edited through the conjoined filters of time, context, and experience. It is also thoroughly conditioned by the narratives of place, belonging, and family as they are inscribed on individual, specific bodies. Thus, while Bachelard can contend that “when we examine a nest, we place ourselves at the origin of confidence in the world,” this is true only insofar as the individual’s personal history at a given point can allow.

How resilient the human spirit, then, that has the capacity to build and rebuild ‘nests’ from which to draw sustenance of all types.

*Quotations are from Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, chapter 4.

NEST  comprised earlier work and experiments in developing this body of work, and considered these same questions from a darker, more difficult space: a position of personal grieving, and wrestling with the emotional healing needed to find understanding and compassion in the face of less-than-ideal memories and experiences. In these earlier iterations, this work took Bachelard’s ideas and parsed them to expose the assumption that the association between the ideas ‘nest’and ‘home’ would be consistently positive. What if those childhood narratives have been called into question as unverifiable, or are suspect in some way? What if that sense of security (of any sort: emotional, physical) within the primal nest held no guarantee; what if it was a contingent thing, qualified or tenuous in some way? These other possibilities disrupt the understanding of the nest as refuge and haven, home for the heart and body … and lead to a second set of questions: what effect does this have on the way we construct our self-story through the filters of memory, and in relation to the assumptions inherent in the social discourse of race and class and gender?

This body of work developed over time, and reveals a trajectory of gestures toward re-imagining the relationship between people and these (and other) objects, toward understanding the connections between the process of making and the process of recognition.

Sydney Lancaster, January 2018

The slideshows below show the work developed for NEST & 21st Century Nesting Practices, in various exhibition settings. New work was developed for each iteration.

 Harcourt House Artist Run Centre, October 2012.


Fleishman Gallery,  Toronto, February – April 2013.


AT ODDS,  Art Gallery of St. Albert, St. Albert AB, 6 February – 1 March 2014.  


ELSEWHERE, Gallery@501, Sherwood Park AB, January 9 – February 21 2015.


21st Century Nesting Practices, McMullen Gallery, Edmonton AB Jan 10 – Feb 25 2018.