Bur­tyn­sky’s ca­reerdefin­ing work

Toronto artist pre­mieres im­pact­ful new film at TIFF

Village Post - - Currents - by Jes­sica Wei

Pho­tog­ra­pher and film­maker Ed­ward Bur­tyn­sky’s ca­reer has traced the move­ment of hu­mans on this earth through the in­dus­trial foot­print we’ve left on it. Now, his ca­reer cul­mi­nates in his lat­est work, An­thro­pocene.

The new multi-dis­ci­plinary art, pub­lish­ing and film project, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Jen­nifer Baich­wal and Ni­cholas de Pencier, en­com­passes a fea­ture doc­u­men­tary pre­mier­ing this year at TIFF, ex­hi­bi­tions at the AGO and the Na­tional Gallery in Ot­tawa and a new book.

“To me, [ An­thro­pocene] is kind of a sur­vey of all the things that I’ve done, from min­ing to de­for­esta­tion to agri­cul­ture, to how we man­age and con­trol wa­ter. All of those things are mark­ings of the an­thro­pocene [a pro­posed epoch dat­ing from the begin­ning of sig­nif­i­cant hu­man im­pact on the Earth],” Bur­tyn­sky says. “That, in it­self, has come to­gether in this project in a way. It makes me ner­vous what I’m go­ing to do next.”

The jour­ney of An­thro­pocene has taken his team across the globe, ex­plor­ing un­der­ground mines in Rus­sia and the Got­thard Tun­nel in Switzer­land, the long­est tun­nel ever made for train pas­sage. They flew to Kenya, where they pho­tographed Su­dan, the last north­ern white rhino, which ac­tu­ally died six months later, and Nairobi, where they doc­u­mented the burn­ing of over 16,000 tusks as a re­sponse to poach­ers in­volved in the il­le­gal ivory trade.

“It sums up that we, as hu­mans, are now a force that is greater than all the nat­u­ral forces on the planet right now,” he says. “There’s a lot of things that we can do as a re­sult of be­ing a dom­i­nant force, which is change the tem­per­a­ture of the ocean or change the com­po­si­tion of the at­mos­phere.”

A 30-plus year ca­reer ex­am­in­ing the bombed out land­scapes of our nat­u­ral world doesn’t foster much hope.

“Fif­teen, 20 years ago, I was in my grief stage,” he says earnestly. “Now I’ve just kind of ac­cepted that there’s a big prob­lem.… I feel like I got the best part: no war, mostly growth and the ex­cite­ment of tech­nol­ogy and watch­ing it change the world in a dra­matic way. I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced all of those things, and now I’m sit­ting back and look­ing at it, and it’s painful.”

An­thro­pocene pre­mieres at TIFF on Sept. 6 and for of­fi­cial re­lease on Sept. 28. The ex­hi­bi­tion opens at the AGO on Sept. 28.

Burn­ing ivory tusks from ‘An­thro­pocene’

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