"Manufactured Landscapes" – Photographs of Ed Burtynsky

“Manufactured Landscapes” — an incredible documentary I saw this week on IFC. Aesthetically and morally provocative. From the artist’s website:

MANUFACTURED LANDSCAPES is a feature length documentary on the world and work of renowned artist Edward Burtynsky. Burtynsky makes large-scale photographs of ‘manufactured landscapes’ – quarries, recycling yards, factories, mines, dams. He photographs civilization’s materials and debris, but in a way people describe as “stunning” or “beautiful,” and so raises all kinds of questions about ethics and aesthetics without trying to easily answer them.

The film follows Burtynsky to China as he travels the country photographing the evidence and effects of that country’s massive industrial revolution. Sites such as the Three Gorges Dam, which is bigger by 50% than any other dam in the world and displaced over a million people, factory floors over a kilometre long, and the breathtaking scale of Shanghai’s urban renewal are subjects for his lens and our motion picture camera.

Shot in Super-16mm film, Manufactured Landscapes extends the narrative streams of Burtynsky’s photographs, allowing us to meditate on our profound impact on the planet and witness both the epicentres of industrial endeavour and the dumping grounds of its waste.

“… I think the work that I do, and the work that I did for 20 years before I even got to doing China, is, in a way, a lament. It’s a lament for a loss of our natural world. So, in a way, the work champions that world, and looks at it, and tries to remind us that our built environment comes from somewhere, and that we just have ignored it.

We’ve moved on to the new ages: the Information Age, the Biological Age; that’s what occupies our mind. But the Stone Age and the Iron Age and the Copper Age are all alive and well, and expanding on a level that is breathtaking. So, in a way, it’s like our consciousness is forging ahead into the new world, but I think it’s those old worlds that can come up from behind us and undercut our ambition, so to speak.

So, to me, the work is this meditation, is this walking through those worlds, through these wastelands that have been left behind, through that residual kind of place in the world where the taking has happened and we’ve walked away, and try to remind us that there is this other side to the built world that we have.”

From Ed Burtynsky and “Manufactured Landscapes” Interview w. Collin Dunn. Treehugger.com. June 27, 2007.

See also: Photography by Edward Burtynsky on Amazon.com.

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