Edward Burtynsky – An earthen canvas.

By Deirdre Kelly
Nuvo Magazine

Edward Burtynsky has made his name standing behind the lens. But today he is out front and in focus as the man who would save us from ourselves. It’s mid-morning at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and as the Canadian master photographer strolls through The Anthropocene Project, the acclaimed multidisciplinary exhibition combining large-scale resource extraction images, scientific research, and immersive media, he is recognized by several gallery-goers, who rush over to take his picture. They close in when Burtynsky pauses by a 10-by-20-foot high-resolution mural of a pristine coral bed in Indonesia’s Komodo National Park, one of thousands of images he has made of at-risk ecosystems in a 35-year career documenting the beauty and the brutality of the industrial footprint.

Silhouetted against one of his artworks, Burtynsky’s black suit contrasts sharply with the faded abstract-expressionist colour burst that makes the print look more like a Jackson Pollock painting than a call to action. And he makes no apologies for it. “Aesthetics is still one of the most powerful tools at the disposal of a visual artist,” the 63-year-old Burtynsky says. “Not to engage in a powerfully visual way with the image seems to go in an opposite direction.”

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By Truc Nguyen
NUVO Magazine

This month, Anthropocene—a photography and multimedia art exhibition from artists Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal, and Nicholas de Pencieropens simultaneously at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the National Gallery of Canada, the first time the two museums have offered concurrent, complementary shows from the same artists. The Anthropocene Project also encompasses a feature documentary film arriving in theatres next month, a hardcover book from Steidl, and an exhibition of photographs by Burtynsky at the Nicholas Metivier Gallery in Toronto.

An endeavor for which the artists travelled to 46 different locations in 20 countries over the last four years, visiting every continent except Antarctica, the project aims to document and highlight the effect of human activity and industrialization on our planet. “Anthropocene is a word that was coined in 2000 by Paul Crutzen, and it’s a word that tries to describe what humans are doing to the planet, that we’re shifting the planet into another geological epoch,” explains Burtynsky. “Geologists are trying to tell us that we’re actually now a planetary force as a species; all of the work, whether it’s deforestation, or mining, or quarries, or farming, all of these things are key drivers of tipping us into this other state.”

A collaboration between photographer Burtynsky and filmmakers Baichwal and de Pencier, Anthropocene is a follow up to their previous films and creative projects, Manufactured Landscapes (2006) and Watermark (2013). Using both traditional photography processes and newer technology such as augmented reality and satellite imagery, the AGO exhibition showcases sites of human activity and environmental degradation as varied as the burning of a mound of confiscated ivory tusks in Nairobi, a clearcut forest on Vancouver Island, and a potash mine in Russia.

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