Edward Burtynsky: The China Series
January 19—April 1, 2007 Tisch Gallery with a companion exhibition: Altered States: Views of Transition in Recent Photography
With generous support from the Tisch College for Citizenship and Public Service, the department of Asian Studies, the department of Art and Art History, the Institute for Global Leadership, the Harvard Advocate; with additional support from the department of International Relations and the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy
For twenty-five years, internationally acclaimed Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky has explored places where industrial activity has reshaped and forever altered the land. His surveys of the terrain Man has shaped by quarrying, mining, railcutting, recycling, oil refining, and shipbreaking remind us that our needs and desires cause scarified incursions into the earth. Eloquent, stunning, and disturbing, Burtynsky’s photographs transform our notions of the Sublime landscape and demand an awareness of what progress has created.
Edward Burtynsky: The China Series showcases twenty large-scale, newly completed works on five themes related to China’s booming development over the past decade: manufacturing; recycling; shipbuilding; urban renewal; and the Three Gorges Dam.
The artist writes:
“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 a 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.”
Where once Burtynsky stood as an apolitical documentary photographer, he now endeavors to raise awareness of the consequences of development. While unexpectedly beautiful, Burtynsky’s China is a vast, modern example of the unfolding, potentially disastrous consequences of globalization. China’s transformation into an industrial superpower and global economic player has brought exponential population growth, a dramatic shift from a rural to a manufacturing existence, and unprecedented urban development. The Three Gorges Dam (one of the exhibition’s foci) is the world’s most extravagant and environmentally altering engineering feat, a great source of pride for China, and a microcosm of the relationship between progress and consequence.
Edward Burtynsky: The China Series was organized by the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Image: Manufacturing #17, Deda Chicken Porcessing Plant, Dehui City, Jilin Province, China, 2005, chromogenic print, 58 x 68 inches courtesy of Charles Cowles Gallery, New York