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Monday, 17 January 2011

Edward Burtynsky: Oil: Transportation and Motor Culture


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Highway #7, Downtown Houston, Texas, USA, 2004 (detail)

Highway #7, Downtown Houston, Texas, USA, 2004



Oil, 2010 (introductory note)

In 1997 I had what I refer to as my oil epiphany. It occurred to me that the vast, human-altered landscapes that I pursued and photographed for over twenty years were only made possible by the discovery of oil and the mechanical advantage of the internal combustion engine. It was then that I began the oil project. Over the next ten years I researched and photographed the largest oil fields I could find. I went on to make images of refineries, freeway interchanges, automobile plants and the scrap industry that results from the recycling of cars. Then I began to look at the culture of oil, the motor culture, where masses of people congregate around vehicles, with vehicle events as the main attraction. These images can be seen as notations by one artist contemplating the world as it is made possible through this vital energy resource and the cumulative effects of industrial evolution.

Edward Burtynsky







Nanpu Bridge Interchange, Shanghai, China, 2004 (detail)

Nanpu Bridge Interchange, Shanghai, China, 2004



Highway #2, Los Angeles, California, USA, 2003 (detail)

Highway #2, Los Angeles, California, USA, 2003



Highway #5, Los Angeles, California, USA, 2009 (detail)

Highway #5, Los Angeles, California, USA, 2009



Suburbs #3, with quarry, North Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, 2007 (detail)

Suburbs #3, with quarry, North Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, 2007


Photos by Edward Burtynsky from website: Edward Burtynsky Photographic Work

11 comments:

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

shocking - - - johnny says 'hi'


1.17

grey whiteness of fog against invisible
ridge, shadowed green of leaf on branch
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

picture as paint, center of
diagonal line made by

something that was, surface
still, which at first

grey-white of fog reflected in channel,
circular green pine of tip of sandspit

TC said...

Steve, fog here too, no waves but steady whoosh of traffic... transportation and motor culture right at our front door, though we take no more part in it than we do in life on Mars.

circular green pine of tip of sandspit

That's one of those "tinc't with cinnamon"-type lines J. Keats so relished.

Speaking of which... Hi, Johnny.

curtisroberts said...

I also love Steve's poem, all of its lines and the picture it paints. The photos are breathtaking (which often accompanies shock) and put me back in that place again where I need to consider how it is I really feel about cities. Today, ahead of a trip to Manhattan tomorrow, I think the answer is I'm not very fond of them and increasingly uncomfortable in them and find it difficult to fake any other reaction.

curtisroberts said...

That quarry view is really something.

u.v.ray. said...

On the subject of oil and motor culture I think it of poignant note that it is the anniversary of the death of Gregory Corso, author of Gasoline, who died on this day, 17th January, in 2001.

Julia said...

Amazing pictures. Amazing structures!
They look like puzzles to me. Or mazes.
Tremendous headaches: imagine myself trying to find the right direction in these highways. And not finding it at first time. Nor the second...

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

Thanks for note, and noting Keats (and thank you too Curtis for note). Seeing these yesterday I had a sense of how much driving I do (to get from here to East Bay, only 3 days a week last fall, usually just 2, and now I'll not be going even that much), but still 'contributing to the problem). What to do? ? ? Johnny wants to "look at Tom's pictures again". . . .

1.18

light coming into sky above still black
ridge, silver of planet beside branches
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

5 year old blond boy asleep
on yellow quilt, face

Jupiter to the left of moon,
cypress branch, Orion

grey-white of fog reflected in channel,
shadowed green pine on tip of sandspit

TC said...

"Amazing structures!
They look like puzzles to me. Or mazes.
Tremendous headaches..."

and perhaps nightmares.

The sensation of vertigo induced by some of these images is indeed unsettling.

Burtynsky's technique of shooting from great distance puts our attention upon the structures, as Julia suggests. From these structures a conscious being from another part of the universe might deduce something about the creatures who have made them. What sort of being would wish to do this kind of damage to the planet upon which it exists and depends for sustenance?

Surely not a very far-seeing one.

At Knossos, in Minoan Crete, Persephone, the mistress of the underworld, presided over a ritual enactment spoken of by Karl Kerenyi. A roofless dancing ground was spoken of as "the labyrinth".

This underworld goddess was also called The Mistress of the Labyrinth.


Then again... if anyone is to lead us out of the labyrinth and back up toward the stars, let it be the still innocent


5 year old blond boy asleep
on yellow quilt, face

Jupiter to the left of moon,
cypress branch, Orion

Robb said...

Thanks for the reminder that I never want to be a part of car culture ever again. Makes my uptiv crawl.

TC said...

The trouble with swearing off the car culture, though, is that it has a way of finding you and getting its revenge.

My last vehicle was a '56 Chevy pickup truck, powder blue, which, after a glancing scrape with a car driven by the son of a California Highway Patrol Officer (my luck), I abandoned on the dirt road in front of our shack in West Marin, forty-odd years ago.

But it turns out escape is not that simple.

Here we're on a freeway feeder where the noise and fumes of a speedway surround us continuously.

A little over five weeks ago the innocent (?) act of attempting to walk through a parking lot in a driving rain ended up in a close encounter with concrete and the breaking of bones I had intended to keep intact a bit longer.

Merely reverting to pedestrianhood not only doesn't save one from the car culture, it makes one a better target.

Robb said...

Ouch! Sorry to hear that Tom. I think my only choice is to stay in NYC forever, and even then my fate might the front-end of a taxi.

"conin"