‘We are drawn by desire — a chance at good living, yet we are consciously or unconsciously aware that the world is suffering for our success.’
A new exhibition at the David Brower Center in Berkeley, California highlights the pivotal work of Edward Burtynsky, a Canadian photographer who has spent three decades focusing his lens on the multitude of ways that industry is drastically transforming our planet’s natural landscapes.
Titled “Art/Act: Edward Burtynsky,” the riveting showcase largely focuses on the photographer’s powerful “Water” series, which takes viewers on a sobering tour of landscapes where the relationship between humans and water have become altered — and in some cases, devastated — as a result of increasing industrial demands.
Just a few of the locations that were documented for the series include Arizona’s Salt River, the aquaculture farms of China, California’s dwindling Shasta Lake Reservoir and the polder landscapes of the Netherlands (pictured below).
“My hope is that these pictures will stimulate a process of thinking about something essential to our survival; something we often take for granted — until it’s gone,” Burtynsky writes on his website.
Alongside pieces from his “Water” series, the exhibition will also be showcasing work from a few of his other photographic projects, like “Quarries” (below).
“These images are meant as metaphors to the dilemma of our modern existence; they search for a dialogue between attraction and repulsion, seduction and fear,” Burtynsky writes in his artist statement. “We are drawn by desire — a chance at good living, yet we are consciously or unconsciously aware that the world is suffering for our success.
Whether it’s water, stone, oil, minerals or some other natural resource, Burtynsky’s images are masterful in demonstrating the staggering scope and scale of humanity’s impact on the Earth.
The exhibition is paired with the annual presentation of the Art/Act Award, which the David Brower Center first established seven years ago to celebrate and acknowledge artists who have dedicated a substantial portion of their art and careers to activism.
“Edward Burtynsky’s work represents the core of the David Brower Center’s vision for an ‘art of advocacy,'” Jackie Hasa, managing director of Community Partnerships and Exhibitions at the Center, explains. “His art connects its audience to the beauties of nature and the threats to it, deepens awareness of the promise and sorrows of human society, and inspires more people to participate in environmental and social activism.
Past honorees of the Art/Act Award include Richard Misrach, who broke new ground with his large-scale ecologically-focused photography; Maya Lin, the designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.; and Chris Jordan, whose imagery of garbage and mass consumption provide a harrowing perspective of our society.