Edward Burtynsky, Anthropocene

Christophe Guye, Zurich

until 29 Aug 2020

The ‘Anthropocene’ Project is a multidisciplinary body of work combining fine art photography, film, virtual reality, augmented reality, and scientific research to investigate human influence on the state, dynamic, and future of the Earth. The exhibition at the gallery focuses on fine art photography from the series ‘Anthropocene’, dating from 2012 to 2017 as well as on the film. The works highlight the artist’s visual exploration into the global consequences of coastal erosion, logging, mining, and industrial agriculture with subjects ranging from the surreal phosphate rock deposits mined near Lakeland Florida to the psychedelic potash mines in Russia’s Ural Mountains. 

Edward BURTYNSKY (*1955, Canada)
Basque Coast #1, UNESCO Geopark, Zumaia, Spain, 2015
Pigment inkjet print on Kodak Professional Photo Paper
121.9 x 162.5 cm (48 x 64 in.)

Born in St. Catharines, Ontario in 1955 and based in Toronto, Edward Burtynsky is regarded as one of the world’s most accomplished contemporary photographers. He received his Bachelor of Applied Arts in Photography and Media Studies from Ryerson University in 1982, and in 1985 founded Toronto Image Works, a darkroom rental facility, custom photo laboratory, digital imaging and new media computer-training centre catering to all levels of Toronto’s art community. Early exposure to the sites and images of the General Motors plant in his hometown helped to formulate his photographic work.

Edward BURTYNSKY (*1955, Canada)
Chino Mine #5, Silver City, New Mexico, USA, 2012
Pigment inkjet print on Kodak Professional Photo Paper
148.5 x 198.2 cm (58 1/2 x 78 in.)

Burtynsky’s ‘Anthropocene’ explores the collective impact we as a species are having on the surface of the planet; an inspection of the human systems we’ve imposed onto natural landscapes. He has turned his lens on the terrible beauty of industrial interventions in nature such as mining, quarrying, manufacturing, shipping, the production of oil, and recycling. The title ‘Anthropocene’ refers to a proposal circulating in the scientific community to formally recognize the commencement of a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene – in which humans are the primary cause of permanent planetary change.

Edward BURTYNSKY (*1955, Canada)
Oil Bunkering #4, Niger Delta, Nigeria, 2016
Pigment inkjet print on Kodak Professional Photo Paper
148.4 x 198.3 cm (58 3/8 x 78 1/8 in.)

‘We have reached an unprecedented moment in planetary history,’ stated Burtynsky. ‘Humans now arguably change the Earth and its processes more than all other natural forces combined.’

Edward BURTYNSKY (*1955, Canada)
Phosphor Tailings #6, Near Lakeland, Florida, USA, 2012
Pigment inkjet print on Kodak Professional Photo Paper
148.4 x 198 cm (58 3/8 x 78 in.)

For ‘Anthropocene’, Burtynsky travelled to every continent, with the exception of Antarctica, and visited twenty countries including Canada, Chile, China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Nigeria, Russia, Spain and the United States. Often shooting from his signature bird’s-eye view using airplanes, helicopters and drones, his large-scale photographs are rich in detail and vast in scale, sometimes verging on the appearance of painterly abstractions. His images strike an intricate balance between a sombre reportage and a powerfully seductive aesthetic. ‘Anthropocene’ reflects the dilemma between society’s desire for prosperity and its impact on the environment.

Edward BURTYNSKY (*1955, Canada)
Phosphor Tailings Pond #4, Near Lakeland, Florida, USA, 2012
Pigment inkjet print on Kodak Professional Photo Paper
148.6 x 198 cm (58 1/2 x 78 in.)

‘Humans have always taken from nature. This is normal, part of the human condition, and, indeed, a fact of life for all life forms. What is different now is the speed and scale of human taking, and the Earth has never experienced this kind of cumulative impact. If my images appear surreal at times, it must be remembered that they depict our extractive world as it is.’ – Edward Burtynsky

Edward BURTYNSKY (*1955, Canada)
Salt Pan #18, Little Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, India, 2016
Pigment inkjet print on Kodak Professional Photo Paper
121.9 x 162.7 cm (48 x 64 in.)

His photographs are included in the collections of over sixty major museums around the world, including the National Gallery of Canada; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid; the Tate Modern, London and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California. Exhibitions include Anthropocene (2018) at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the National Gallery of Canada (international touring exhibition); Water (2013) at the New Orleans Museum of Art & Contemporary Art Center, New Orleans, (international touring exhibition) and Oil (2009) at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. (touring 2009-2014). Awards and distinctions include the TED Prize, the Governor Gernal’s Award in Visual Media Arts, The Outreach award at the Rencontres d’Arles, and the Roloff Beny Book award. In 2006, Burtynsky was awarded the title of Officer of the Order of Canada. Most recently, Burtynsky was named Photo London’s 2018 Master of Photography. He currently holds eight honorary doctorate degrees.