Edward Burtynsky: OIL

Edward Burtynsky: OIL is the photographer’s examination of how humanity uses oil through photographs. The project started as a display at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and has been translated to book form and, more recently, as an app for iPads.

I love the use of art to showcase our relationship with the commodities that we consume and Burtynsky does that quite well.

In addition to revealing the rarely-­‐seen mechanics of its manufacture, Burtynsky captures the effects of oil on our lives, depicting landscapes altered by its extraction from the earth, and by the cities and suburban sprawl generated around its use. He also addresses the coming “end of oil,” as we confront its rising cost and dwindling availability.

Bridging the disconnect between our consumer world and that of the oil industry, Burtynsky’s photographs, transfixing in their clarity, take us on a journey. Starting at the source Burtynsky shows us international drilling sites and refineries, then continues to distribution methods and the motor culture of freeways, eventually, leading us to the inevitable end of oil at scrap-­‐yards, recycling grounds and abandoned oil fields.

The Oil iPad app is well done and has the photos from the exhibition plus commentary from Burtynsky. Throughout the app he narrates some photos and provides his thoughts on how we can improve our knowledge about oil use in modern culture.

If anybody out there still thinks that oil extraction as it’s currently practised is fine for people and the environment do the world a favour and tell that person to check this out.

You maybe lucky enough to catch the exhibit in person too. The BURTYNSKY: OIL exhibition is at The Photographers’ Gallery in London May 19 – July 1, 2012. After that it travels to the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno (July 9–September 23, 2012); to the Taubman Museum in Roanoke (October 19, 2012–January 6, 2013); and to the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa (June 4–September 2, 2013)

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