Edmonton artist prepares for 6-month residency — at a landfill

Leanne Olson is set to begin her residency at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre — the first residency of its kind in Edmonton.

'I’m interested in a lot of concepts behind waste,' photographer Leanne Olson says

Leanne Olson is preparing for a stinky six-month residency — but one she's excited about. (Leanne Olson/Supplied)

An Edmonton-based artist is preparing for a stinky six-month residency.

Leanne Olson is set to begin her residency at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre — the first residency of its kind in Edmonton.

The residency is put on by the Edmonton Arts Council and the City of Edmonton. Olson was selected for the residency and hopes to highlight some of the lesser-known sights from the waste management facility.

"I'm really intrigued by being able to be near waste for six months," Olson said. "I think it's kind of this forgotten part of society."

Olson, a photo-based artist, has a makeshift studio at the facility that was converted from a storage room. She expects to take thousands of photos of all sorts of different happenings at the 233-hectare facility.

One of Olson's photos from 2012. She hopes to use the waste management facility's large property to her advantage. (Leanne Olson/Supplied)

"I'm interested in a lot of concepts behind waste, but also the root causes behind consumption," Olson said, adding that she's also interested in the dichotomy between possessions and waste. An abundance of possessions can be great, but an abundance of waste is not.

"The site is on such a nice piece of land as well, and there's a small lake, so I'm interested in that and how the land and the waste is intersecting and what kinds of things are growing in that lake."

Wasting no time

Olson is planning on using the lake and experimenting with different kinds of photography for her exhibition. "Maybe [the photos are] aesthetically pleasing, but it's actually something decomposing," she told CBC's Radio Active Wednesday.

The staff at the facility likely won't be subjects in her photos, Olson said, but added that they do play an important role. They've been helpful showing Olson around, pitching ideas for potential shoots and even showing her their own photos — both of the facility and in general, she said.

"Part of the residency, I think, is building relationships with the staff and transference of some of that knowledge."

A photo Olson took last year. She hopes to experiment with different photo forms but may also do the majority of her work digitally. (Leanne Olson/Supplied)

Olson said the thousands of photos she's planning on taking will be whittled down to around a dozen for an exhibition.

And though the facility has some strange smells — "each building has a personality," she said — Olson is looking forward to shedding light on some lesser-known aspects of Edmonton's waste facility.

It's a big responsibility, but I'm just so infatuated with that part of life."

A photo of Olson's from 2010. (Leanne Olson/Supplied)