Images: Exhibition Opening, YORK

I’ve had a couple of days to decompress from the busy-ness of installing YORK, doing some interviews with the press, and the Opening Reception on Thursday night.

Still feels a little unreal, but to make it more concrete – I thought I’d post some images* from the Opening …

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(*my thanks to John Waldron for taking these)

There was an amazing turnout on Thursday night – lovely to see so many people! And no surprise, since there was so much art to see – two more exhibitions opened in addition to YORK: Megan Morman’s Art Party in the main gallery, and work by Meghan Rose Mehler in the Community Gallery, as part of the summer Incubator Series at Latitude 53.

A good night – and it felt really good to see the project out of the studio. A chance, finally, to step back from the work (literally) and see how the pieces fit together, at least in a preliminary sense. We made a LOT of work over the last 6 months … the work in this exhibition is less than half the total … so this really is a first – and preliminary – look at how the pieces all fit.

But for all of that – I’m pretty happy with it.

The final countdown to YORK opening … and feeling so grateful

Well Hello!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here – and predictably, my excuse has been simply running out of day on a regular basis.

That being said – I am happy to be posting here tonight for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that doing so means I have a moment to catch my breath a bit from the past month’s shenanigans … which in turn means that YORK is about to open!

York Invite Web

I am really looking forward to tomorrow’s opening – I had a moment tonight when it really finally HIT ME that the opening was tomorrow. That the last few months’ work was coming to fruition. Feels good to have this touchstone. It seems at once a solid, fixed point – a closure and a beginning, both.

It’s been a fairly hectic few days in the final lead up – I got back from a trip to Newfoundland on the 18th, and hit the ground running! Working at home and in the studio on last-minute tweaks, and at Latitude 53 all day Monday and Tuesday to get the install done and finished. Everything went well over all – there’s always a few curve balls and glitches – but in the end, I think we are in good shape.

I can’t imagine what installing this show would have been like without help … which is the other reason I am very happy to be writing tonight and getting this post out.  I wanted to express my gratitude to several people who have been great help and support. First, to my friend and collaborator, Marian Switzer, for all her hard work, insight, feedback, thoughtfulness, and all of the times we laughed so hard in the studio while we were getting the work done. It’s been a great experience making this project with you.

To Sara McKarney, Zach Hoskin, Adriean Koleric (the best install crew!) thank you so much for all the help you gave us during the installation!

And thanks of course to Todd and everyone at Latitude 53, but especially to Laura Porter, for spending hours and hours on a very tall ladder, and being so conscientious (and endlessly patient).

There are TWO other exhibitions opening tomorrow at Latitude that people shouldn’t miss:  Megan Morman‘s Art Party in the Main Gallery (totally fun!), and a series of really great, quirky paintings by Meagan Rose Mehler in the Community Gallery for Latitude 53’s Incubator series.

Ya gotta come down and see it all!

Exhibition is installed … Opening Tomorrow!

I’ve had a great week in Toronto so far.

The exhibition installation has gone really smoothly, and Rochelle and Jessica have been so great to work with! It’s been delightful getting to know them, and working in the gallery.
It’s a really nice space, and it’s been really exciting to see the show take shape.
SO! Tomorrow’s the big day …
21st Century Nesting Practices opens Friday, February 1, at 7 pm.
I thought I’d give everyone a little sneak peek – I know there are some people out in the wide world that wanted to see the work, but weren’t able to make the trek to Toronto to do it …
a view of some of the work in the gallery ...
a view of some of the work in the gallery …
some of the photographs: digital prints, archival, on 100% cotton paper
Installation view of the video projection …
It’s a diverse show: photographs, gel transfers on birch panel, drawings, sculpture, video, and some of the limited-edition chapbooks that Catherine Owen and I created, called NEST {types} … showing some newly-made work here too … part of the ongoing development of this project that had its start during my residency at Harcourt House. Good to see this body of work grow and shift; I still learn something new from it every day … and find out a more about what I want to say too. The adventure continues …
Hope to see some of you tomorrow!

Flying Away with the Nests Soon …

Seems the New Year is well and truly upon me, and has reminded me in no uncertain terms that There Are Things To Be Done!

The long silence here is due to many things afoot in the studio and elsewhere of late … not the least of which are preparations for an upcoming exhibition in Toronto, at the Fleishman Gallery (79a Harbord Street, near the U of T)!

This exhibition –  called 21st Century Nesting Practices –  is the first extension of work from NEST, which I developed during my residency at Harcourt House last year.

I will be showing a selection of new work, including a video installation and photographs, in combination with a selection of gel transfers, drawings, and sculpture from NEST. The video was developed out of a collaborative poem written by me and Catherine Owen over the course of nearly a year, as I was working through the residency. 500 lines, 250 each, written turn-about. The photos are a small selection from the literally hundreds of images I took of nests in predominately urban environments; the parallels between human and animal spaces are many and complex, as is the way both birds and humans claim space for their own.

21st Century Nesting Practices is a more intimate, personal exploration of the ideas I was working with in NEST  (hence the different title). This exhibition focuses directly on the memories, psychology, and personal history that inform the notion of the human ‘nest’ and ideas of home for me, how those things can mean so differently (and so much the same) to others,  how those ideas change and shift over time. I think presenting this new combination of pieces will teach me about what has to happen to develop the larger  body of work completely – what further risks need to be taken, how far and how deep to go in the long run. I’m looking forward to it immensely.

I will be heading to Toronto for a week of installation at the gallery, culminating in the opening of the exhibition on February 1.

Really excited – a more than a little nervous – and putting out good vibes to all the “shipping fairies” in the universe, in the hope that nothing will go missing or be delayed on its way there. We should be just FINE. I hope.

SO! For anyone out there in the Toronto area (or looking for an excuse to come to Toronto for a weekend) –      Here’s the exhibition information:


A PDF of the Media Release can be found here: Sydney-Lancaster-MRWEB

I am grateful to have the support of a Travel Grant  from the Edmonton Arts Council & the City of Edmonton to take this work on the road!



Liminal Spaces: Dirt City and Making Art

Edmonton has a nickname of fairly recent creation: Dirt City. The resonances are multiple, and perhaps that’s one of the reasons the name has gained a fair bit of traction in local circles, including the arts community here. Edmonton is Dirt City in many ways – the moniker speaks to the history of farming in the area to be sure, but also to the blue collar/industrial/oil patch foundation of the boom-town economy. It also, less metaphorically, addresses the locally infamous ‘annual reveal’ of the detritus temporarily concealed by the (seemingly) endless winters: the dirt and garbage left behind  by careless people, crews of sanders and graders on the streets. The flip side of this view of Edmonton is the notion that it is a place of potential and growth – a place that can foster change and creativity, and the dreams that go with that kind of vision. A place that perhaps has ‘gritty’ aspects to its history, but is in transition, has the ‘dirt’ from which things can grow; a place actively engaged in the process of reinventing itself… Including the eastern portion of the downtown core, now dubbed ‘The Quarters’ as the city begins a several-years-long attempt to redevelop and revitalize what has become over the last 40 years an economically and socially depressed area.

From the tensions and contradictions inherent in these competing views came Dirt City-Dream City, a transitory public art project supported by the Public Art program of the Edmonton Arts Council. The EAC brought in Kendal Henry as curator for this project (more info on Kendal here and here), and the and the artists selected for the project spent the first week of May in workshops, walking tours, and discussions, gathering information from various sources about the area, and developing their work around these resources. The art projects in Dirt City-Dream City will be presented in various locations in The Quarters/Downtown East section of Edmonton this July.

I had the pleasure of speaking on May 4th to this group, as part of the information-workshop portion of the project. Chelsea Boos from the EAC asked me to discuss the  photoshoot my colleague Marian Switzer and I did September 2011 at the now-demolished York Hotel. In the earlier history of the area, the York was a bustling place, host to travelers and weddings, like most any other hotel in a busy, growing urban downtown. Over time however, downtown Edmonton was economically gutted by suburban sprawl – much like virtually every city in North America – and although the western portion of the city’s core saw business development and construction, Downtown East (and the York along with it) continued to slide economically, and increasingly suffer from the social ills that plague such depressed urban areas.

When Marian and I shot the rooms at the York, the place had been closed for a bit over a year; the City had first revoked the tavern’s license to stem the rash of alcohol and drug-fueled incidents at the place, and then finally purchased the property and closed it in April of 2010. I had seen the interior in August 2010, when I was on staff at Latitude 53, and was instantly struck by the sense that the place was somehow frozen in time – in a state of suspended animation as though the inhabitants and patrons had just left, or could return at any moment. I wanted to explore that tension, the simultaneity of presence and absence, the way the place continued to hold fragmentary and disrupted narratives. The place and its strange intimacy haunted me for a year, but for several reasons, I wasn’t able to follow up on that first visit. Finally, in September of 2011, I had the time and opportunity to see about getting back into the space to see if I could capture some of what I experienced there over a year before. While there were some practical and logistic complications to working in the space, including some issues regarding personal safety, and a tight deadline to meet before the property was demolished – I wouldn’t have missed this opportunity, not for a moment. I think that the work Marian and I did there is solid, and we are starting to develop it into a really interesting body of work for exhibition.

What we found there was quite arresting, on a number of levels. The City had been unable to entirely secure the building after the hotel’s closure, so there had been considerable vandalism, principally to the walls in the hallways.

People who had no other option had also used some of the rooms as safe(r) spaces to bunk down at night (the merits of a locking door , a roof, and a bed cannot be underestimated when life is being lived on the street). In many ways (as squats go) it was a pretty good place. But what I found deeply interesting – and quite eerie – was the fact that a large number of the rooms in the York had remained virtually untouched since I’d last seen them in August 2010.

August 2010
… and in September 2011.

This was a liminal space on a number of levels: it hovered between being and non-being (in the sense that it was slated for demolition at the time we were working there); it was once a place some people called home (sometimes for years), but was also a place people often stayed for one night (or less); it was once a perfectly respectable hotel, that had become a haven for drug dealers and a site of prostitution and violent crime; what remained in many of the rooms spoke to both the ‘public’ and ‘private’ simultaneously (personal objects within the context of the nondescript and anonymous). These relationships are of course fluid, tenuous at best … but regardless of the shifting boundaries inherent in each room, each encounter with the space, Marian and I were faced with a consistent set of problems/questions:  how to work in and with what we found there with respect? These rooms were peoples’ homes; we felt there was a responsibility to honour that fact, and try our best to document the space without being voyeuristic. We were conscious of the difference between our reality and the reality of the people who lived there before we came. We were also very aware of both the real loss that some of the residents felt with the hotel’s closing. And there was the fact that we ‘didn’t belong’ there – we weren’t part of that community, and so had to negotiate our place (and any right we had to be) there at that time – through the intersecting and contested narratives of race, gender, economics, and history. There are some excellent commentaries on some of the ideas and issues we confronted in working in this place  – and with regard to DirtCity-Dream City as a whole  here and here.

I encourage anyone reading this to investigate further  – and tell me what you think about the artist’s role in such a place/space, and the artist’s responsibility   to the larger community surrounding such a place.  I leave you with hard questions (none of which have hard and fast answers that I have found yet – and all questions which the artists creating work for DirtCity-DreamCity face as well):

– what role does the artist play in creating work in and from such a space, when that artist is from ‘outside’?

– what responsibility doe the artist have to the inhabitants of such a place? to the people living in the vicinity? to the community as a whole?

– are there best practices that can be employed in approaching projects like this now and in the future?

– what is the purpose of art-making in such spaces – public or otherwise?

I look forward to comments, questions, challenges … and I leave you for tonight with two more images from the now demolished York; food for thought, I hope: