edward burtynsky captures the 'human signature' of the proposed new anthropocene era

edward burtynsky captures the 'human signature' of the proposed new anthropocene era

this fall, the canadian photography institute of the national gallery of canada and the art gallery of ontario will co-present ‘anthropocene.’ these two new contemporary art exhibitions tell the story of the human impact on the earth and feature the work of photographer edward burtynsky.


in the year 2000, nobel-prize winning chemist paul jozef crutzen first popularized the term ‘anthropocene’ to describe a proposed new geologic era characterized by the evident ‘human signature’ on the planet. since then, the controversial idea has sparked a vigorous and passionate debate among an international group of scientists regarding the actual geologic credibility of the term. critics argue that while the proposition is eye catching, one cannot define a new geologic era without specifying its precise boundaries in the earth’s rock strata. this controversy surrounding the formal termination of the holocene and the beginning of this new ‘human epoch’ sparked photographer edward burtynsky’s ‘anthropocene project.’

burtynsky photography anthropocene
lithium mines #1, salt flats, atacama desert, chile 2017
image by edward burtynsky | courtesy metivier gallery, toronto



burtynsky has been investigating human-altered landscapes in his artistic practice for 35 years. because much of humanity’s post-industrial impact is not entirely perceptible to the naked eye, burtynsky offers another perspective which makes these realities perfectly clear. this ‘human signature’ is depicted in sharp, visually compelling detail. the viewer is given the chance to experience places and practices each individual is indirectly connected to or responsible for but does not normally see. measuring at approximately 25’ wide by 12’ tall, these photographic murals deliver a visceral sense of scale, and allow viewers to examine — in exquisite detail — the intricacies of human incursions on the earth.

burtynsky photography anthropocene
saw mills #1, lagos, nigeria, 2016
image by edward burtynsky | courtesy of metivier gallery, toronto



the exhibitions are a component of the multi-disciplinary anthropocene project from the collective of photographer edward burtynsky and filmmakers jennifer baichwal and nicholas de pencier of mercury films. anthropocene will run at the national gallery of canada in ottawa and the art gallery of ontario in toronto simultaneously from 28 september 2018 to 24 february 2019.

burtynsky photography anthropocene
coal mine #1, north rhine, westphalia, germany, 2015
image by edward burtynsky | courtesy of metivier gallery, toronto

burtynsky photography anthropocene
oil bunkering #1, niger delta, nigeria, 2016
image by edward burtynsky | courtesy metivier gallery, toronto
burtynsky photography anthropocene
phosphor tailings pond #4, near lakeland, florida 2012
image by edward burtynsky / courtesy metivier gallery, toronto



september 28 2018 – february 24 2019

national gallery of canada and art gallery of ontario

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