Sunday, March 08, 2009

"Grand, awe-inspiring" insanity

What do you do on a windy Saturday when it threatens to snow -- again! --? We went to the Surrey Art Gallery. The exhibition that drew us was Edward Burtysnky's "An Uneasy Beauty - Photographs of Western Canada". From Wikipedia:
Burtynsky's most famous photographs are sweeping views of landscapes altered by industry: mine tailings, quarries, scrap piles. The grand, awe-inspiring beauty of his images is often in tension with the compromised environments they depict.
"Sweeping views" doesn't do justice to the photographs. These were huge, detailed photos, maybe 3 or 4 feet long. Railway and road cuttings (some locations I recognized; a wire net holding the rock face on the Hope-Princeton highway, for example), homesteads, in all their grunginess, a copper mine. These were from the 1980s. Peaceful, and at the same time, disturbing; the stark beauty of our interior cluttered with our machinery.

The display is laid out in a U. The second leg is dedicated to Alberta's oil sands. An online gallery includes the ones we saw, and a few more. (Click on "Oil", then on "Oil Sands".)

The photos are heartbreaking, horrifying. Look at this one. Imagine yourself a waterfowl, on your way North, looking for a place to get a bite to eat, spend the night. Imagine seeing this shiny lake and landing, only to find that the water is poisonous. I read just last week about a flock of 500 ducks dying this way last May. (Story on CTV, stoptarsands, The Star ...) From the Star story:
And they warn the number of bird deaths will jump dramatically as more heavy oil plants are built unless governments bring in tougher environmental rules, including how to deal with billions of litres of poisonous sludge the plants produce.
I was planning to post some cheerful photos of spring flowers from the Art Gallery courtyard, but I don't have the heart for it after looking at the oil sands photos again, even the small versions on the web.

Burtynsky's webpage has more, much more; Eastern Canada, Australia, the US, China, India, Spain, etc. Go see. But be warned; it's not easy viewing.



  1. Ugh...i feel sick...Thanks for posting and enlightening me...I hope that different measures can be taken to change this terrible situation.

  2. Dawn, Pass the word on.


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