The Disturbing Wonder of Humanity’s Impact on Earth
Edward Burtynsky is a Canadian photographer obsessed with the way humanity molds the environment, mostly for the worse. Inspired by early memories of a General Motors plant transforming his hometown of St. Catharines, he’s journeyed the world documenting unnatural interventions in the terrain, from sprawling oil fields in California to uranium tailing ponds in Ontario to China’s immensely disruptive Three Gorges Dam.
Over his career, Burtynsky has won many awards (including a TED Prize) and has exhibited in the Tate, the Guggenheim, and other hallowed museums. His latest show will open September 18 at Berkeley’s David Brower Center. The “Art/Act” exhibit honors artists with strong activist leanings—it seems Berkeley was smitten by his way of showing the ”scale of human impact on our environment and the resources re-shaped and exhausted by our consumption.”
From the show’s to-be-released curator’s statement:
Art/Act: Edward Burtynsky features images of the majestic yet dire landscapes that have resulted from the extraction and use of our natural resources. The exhibition primarily focuses on his powerful series, Water. In Water, aerial photos offer expansive vantage points rendering topographies as delicate abstract patterns. Upon closer inspection, the images reveal once abundant water sources as devastated environments. The body of work includes images of the Colorado River Delta in Mexico, Shasta Lake Reservoir and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Reservation, in addition to images from Spain, China, and The Netherlands. On this timely series Burtynsky writes “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.”
Locals will be able to visit the show until February 4; for everyone else, here’s a selection of its photos courtesy of the Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto, and the Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco.