I know I turned at least one friend on to photographer Ed Burtynsky with this post from 18 months ago.
In the art world he’s hardly anonymous. But I don’t wine-and-cheese much; I just go: “Oooh, pretty pictures! I am moved” — without delving into comparative forms and styles and histories and what’s derivative. So here’s a bit more about him, from a recent show:
- A personal story of how he came to leave the factory where his dad worked (and essentially died) to strike across Canada taking photos of our dependence on oil
- The cleverness and “kind of trap” of his approach. [Also: A critique of his approach, from 2005]
A lot of the photos linked there depict how oil is ultimately soul-crushingly destructive, or at least it leaves a mark that makes the Earth appear like just another disposable item. But of course our way of life revolves around oil. So we can’t flip the switch to “off” any quicker than the technological evolution that took us to this point where life is just so gosh darn convenient. (Yeah, I used some plastic at lunch, dammit.)
Or, from an even broader view: It’s always about carbon. The stuff of life, the stuff of death, the stuff of everything in between: carbon giveth and carbon taketh away. We just have to find the balance therein. (Ha, “just”…makes it sounds so easy. Like: Stop buying anything packed in plastic or styrofoam. Now. Good luck. I can’t even find a 4-cup replacement carafe that fits my still-working coffeemaker, so: Weeeeeee! Cheaper to buy a new plastic coffeemaker anyway!)
As if to drive home the point of our interconnected age, I think I was first turned to Burtynsky by a guy from overseas on the Killing Joke fan discussion list. And now those links above come via an art blog written by a guy in D.C. who comments frequently on a hockey site. Yeah, that’s all sort of “oooh, small world” cliche, but I can’t help marveling that this sort of information exchange didn’t happen in this way 20 years ago. As far as cultural shifts go, such free information flow is a little more significant than the development of microwavable popcorn.
Besides, it’s not every day that contemporary art, hockey and Killing Joke appear in the same sentence.