Nickel Tailings No. 34,
Sudbury, Ontario 1996
Edward Burtynsky’s images of man-altered landscapes are dramatic and often horrifying, but also often quite beautiful in a way that hints at an environmental sublime. Burtynsky suggests that his 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.
In exploring visual approaches to the representation of a heavily modified site, it will be important to look closely at this, and other similar work. My immediate thoughts are that this kind of work perhaps reduces the complexity of some of these issues, which is not necessarily a negative, but I am interested in more nuanced and less dramatic places, the mundane places at the edges of our dwellings. Liminal zones where human activity and the non-human interact in interesting ways that point towards the possibility of a reconciliation in some way.