Re-thinking landscape

I have posted on him before, but today I discovered this very interesting talk by Edward Burtynsky – why don’t you have a look?

©Edward Burtynsky

I think the environmental movement has failed in that it’s used the stick too much; it’s used the apocalyptic tone too much; it hasn’t sold the positive aspects of being environmentally concerned and trying to pull us out.

– Edward Burtynsky

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gigantic human footprints

Today I have spend time with


Shipbreaking # 50,
Chittagong, Bangladesh 2001

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MANUFACTURED LANDSCAPES is a film about Edward Burtynsky; showing us how and where he get his images.

Burtynsky present us for a world destroyed by human activities, but also an unexpected and breathtaking beauty in the harsh industrial landscape. As an artist he leaves the exegesis and reflection to the viewer.

My role, he says, is to produce something to meditate upon – a new kind of Rorschach open for interpretation

Shipbreaking # 11,
Chittagong, Bangladesh 2000

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Visual nature writing

rock of ages #1. active section, e.l. smith quarry, barre, vermont, 1991

Yesterday Time’s Flow Stemmed presented a work by Edward Burtynsky. It nearly swept me away – I’d like to call Burtynsky’s work visual nature writing.

Born in 1955 of Ukrainian heritage at St. Catharines, Ontario, Burtynsky is known as one of Canada’s most respected photographers. Nature photography, as done by Burtynsky, can be seen as an investigation & expedition into the natural world, and as a form reflective social & political critique.

From an art historic perspective Burtynsky can be seen as going into dialogue with abstract expressionism & field painting. His work has a fantastic visual quality. But the really interesting thing is how he manage to use his aesthetic competence to make the world visible.

ROCK OF AGES # 4, abandoned SECTION, adam-pierre QUARRY, BARRE, VERMONT, 1991

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Railcuts #1. C.N. Track, Skihist Provincial Park, British Columbia 1985

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Nature transformed through industry is a predominant theme in my work. I set course to intersect with a contemporary view of the great ages of man; from stone, to minerals, oil, transportation, silicon, and so on. To make these ideas visible I search for subjects that are rich in detail and scale yet open in their meaning. Recycling yards, mine tailings, quarries and refineries are all places that are outside of our normal experience, yet we partake of their output on a daily basis.

These images are meant as metaphors to the dilemma of our modern existence; they search for a dialogue between attraction and repulsion, seduction and fear. We are drawn by desire – a chance at good living, yet we are consciously or unconsciously aware that the world is suffering for our success. Our dependence on nature to provide the materials for our consumption and our concern for the health of our planet sets us into an uneasy contradiction. For me, these images function as reflecting pools of our times.

Edward Burtynsky


I strongly recommend you to have a look at: Edward Burtynsky Artist Lecture at Dartmouth

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“no walk, no work”

I’d like to carve out a place for my own writing in-between literature and visual arts. Erasure poetry, which I have posted on lately, is such an in-between art form. Some call it conceptual writing, which might be a good term, but to me it’s also problematic, because today conceptual art is almost drowned in theorizing – and I don’t want to do theory (any more): I want to make literature as art!

Today my ongoing investigation into form led me to Hamish Fulton (who have the most beautiful webpage).

Based in Canterbury, Kent, Hamish Fulton has made walking the basis of his practice for the past three decades, producing photography, text and sketches that evolve from the experience of solo and group walks in the landscape. Fulton’s art focuses on an engagement with the environment and the self through the experience of walking. He describes himself as a ‘walking’ artist, resisting the limitations of the terms ‘land artist’, ‘performance artist’ or ‘sculptor’.

Fulton does not approach nature as landscape, in the traditional sense of a still image, but as physical experience. He is not walking through a scenery, he is incorporated into it. While land-artsits chooses to rearrange the landscape, Fulton prefers that the landscape imposes itself on him.

Walking, for Fulton, is about transforming one’s state of mind:

I see walking as my form of meditation,” he says. “If we were going into the mountains and there was no trail, then we wouldn’t be able to think very much, because we would be paying attention to not breaking an ankle or falling over. Then walking becomes meditative. You stop the endless thinking mind. And that’s a good thing – because every now and then you want to stop going down the same neural pathways. Then you have other perceptions.

I didn’t start out as a political artist,” he says, “but when you are walking in 2011, you can’t avoid politics. If someone were to ask me what my work was about today, I might say justice, instead of the role of the land