Artist Leanne Olson at the opening of With All Things Considered on September 12.

Exhibition takes a fresh look at decay

September 20, 2019 | Arts & Culture, Society

Around the globe, governments are debating making single-use plastics a mere memory, businesses are opting for paper straws (or going straw-free), and individuals are coming together to advocate for waste reduction and zero-waste initiatives. It makes sense that contemporary artists too are investigating our complex relationship with the not-so-desirable by-products of our existence, says Carolyn Jervis, director/curator of the Mitchell Art Gallery (MAG).

With All Things Considered, at the MAG until December 7, is a perfect example. The first exhibition of Leanne Olson’s work from her year as Edmonton Waste Management Centre’s artist in residence digs into decay.

“This project was an act of bringing decay back into view through unraveling it and putting it in a gallery,” says Olson. “Decay is an equally important part of life, yet it is invisibilized, hidden from view, and shuffled away to be covered up.”

Rather than aestheticize the things we put out each garbage day, With All Things Considered aims to lift the veil on what happens to those things after we discard them. Visitors to the exhibition, says Carolyn, are “set amongst the ruins to contend with our impulse to reinscribe meaning onto the decaying objects otherwise rendered unintelligible.”

Students, faculty, staff and community members are all invited to join the conversation with public programs, including two opportunities to look at waste hidden from plain view. The first, on September 28, explores a former landfill-turned-park with Dr. David Locky, associate professor of Biological Sciences, and artist Dwayne Martineau. Then on October 17, Christina Battle and Nicholas Brown will facilitate a conversation about finding new ways to look at waste with Reclaiming the Invisible. Throughout the semester, local artist Morgan Wedderspoon will also extend invitations to contribute to a participatory artwork project, ecology or oblivion, that will transform the the grey wall in the Allard Hall Atrium in ways that imagine a more just and livable future.

It’s all tied to the MAG’s 2019/20 focus on exploring collective action – interrogating our collective social and systemic impacts, and thinking about sustained work in communities.

In the Winter semester, the MAG’s Grasping at the Roots exhibition, guest curated by Christina Battle, will feature artists engaged in sustained relationships with communities. Carolyn describes it as an opportunity to “go deeper into the ways in which artists are exploring what it means for us to serve our communities.”

A selection of images from the opening of With All Things Considered:

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