Catherine Owen & Sydney Lancaster | Issue #81 (January 1, 2014)

In 2008 I spent a year writing about the berm, the hill of dirt behind my Edmonton home that divided my house from the Whitemud Highway. In 2009, I and local artist Sydney Lancaster spent a year filming it, I everyday behind my window, Sydney on top of the berm itself, chronicling detritus. In the end, the project, Archives of Absence, became many things, including a beautiful book created by rednettlepress courtesy of Trisia Eddy, and a 1.5 hour film that Sydney put together. The film, however, had no sound, no attendant recitation. And so I asked her to send me the raw clips – yes many pixillated, smudged, shaky, flawed – but they are raw after all and shot with a cheap video camera – and I made these four 2 minute, 2-3 fragment, 1-4 clip berm films, the first and last of which have effects and the middle two which are as is. Part 3 focuses particularly on the trash left discarded on the berm, from the glass and plastic of a smashed ATV, to a fake leaf amid real ones, to a midden of dumped newspapers. The poetic fragments attend here to constructions of beauty, resistant to the manifest detritus but also pondering how to accept this particular reality of being human.

These films are just another way of accounting for this passion to pay attention to a space usually only passed through. And a means of placing this time in the past.


Catherine Owen lives in New Westminster, BC. She is the author of nine collections of poetry, the most recent being Trobairitz (Anvil Press 2012), Seeing Lessons (Wolsak & Wynn 2010) and Frenzy (Anvil Press 2009). Her poems are included in several recent anthologies, among them Forcefield: 77 Women Poets of BC (Mothertongue Press, 2013). Her collection of memoirs and essays is called Catalysts: confrontations with the muse (W & W, 2012). Frenzy won the Alberta Book Prize and other collections have been nominated for the BC Book Prize, the Re-lit, the CBC Prize, & the George Ryga Award. In 2011-2012, she wrote five songs for the eco-musical Awakening the Green Man, collaborated with multi-media artist Sydney Lancaster on Nest, served as an art model for photographer Paul Saturley and started a blog called The Relentless Adventures of OCD Crow. Owen edits, tutors, works in film, plays bass in Medea, runs Above&Beyond Chapbook Productions, and lives by the Fraser River. In 2014, ECW will release her book of elegies, Designated Mourner. Her web home is

Sydney Lancaster is an Edmonton-based visual artist and writer, working in assemblage, gel transfer printing, photography, installation and sculpture. Her work questions notions of security, belonging, and identity through the filters of place and object. See for information on collaborations, exhibitions, and other projects.