Monday, January 28, 2008

speaking of molasses

This weekend we watched Manufactured Landscapes, a documentary of photographer Edward Burtynsky's exploration of our manufactured landscapes: factories, mines, quarries, oil rigs, and all the wastes of those kinds of sites.

The film starts slowly, moving past endless aisles of quiet workers. The factory is so big, this scene goes on for some time, long enough to become mesmerized by the rhythm of the passing aisles, long enough to wonder what the workers are making, long enough to come out of your reverie and see more of the same aisles passing by, long enough to comment on how the factory is much brighter and quieter than any factory any of us have worked in, long enough to wonder if we will ever escape the drudgery of this vast place of production. And then, finally, it ends. The scene changes to Burtynsky's still photos of the same factory floor, shot from one end, with the aisles horizontal on the image and repeating beyond the vanishing point.

From there we follow Burtynsky through a number of sites: another Chinese factory, this time outside it where he shoots reams of people in yellow stretching down a road between yellow building after yellow building. Burtynsky wants to communicate the sheer scale of these places, and I'd say he succeeds.

The most interesting photographs for me are of a toxic ship graveyard in Bangladesh, where people dismantle the ships, heavy metals and all, piece by piece, and the destruction of Chinese cities to make room for the largest dam in the world, a dam so large it requires 13 cities to be pulled down brick by brick by its own inhabitants before the water comes in. They need to be destroyed so the skyscrapers don't get in the way of tomorrow's ships.

It was fascinating in a pouring molasses outside in the winter kind of way. Most definitely recommended -- and it's Canadian!

***

I am ready to be rid of winter. I want warm air and no more snowpants and mittens battles, no more heavy gray snow forcing my stroller to become some kind of all-terrain vehicle. I am reminded of Susanne Antonetta's A Mind Apart: Travels in a Neurodiverse World, where one of her key coping mechanisms for managing her bipolar disease is to write when she's manic and revise when she's depressed. That way her depression isn't compounded by writer's block; she can be comforted that it's not time to write, it's time to edit. Although I don't have bipolar, we all go up and down in smaller scales, and it seems a wise insight. So while I don't feel like shooting outside in the winter, I will keep re-editing my old photos... preferably of summer.

One of my biggest dreams is for both Sugar D and I to develop the kind of careers that are portable, so we can spend six summer months in Cape Town, followed by six summer(ish) months here. Fluffy snow is pretty but I think I could live with pictures.

12 comments:

Mimi said...

Ooh, I love Burtynsky. Great stuff. I love the industrial aesthetic.

At least it's sunny today, though, right?

cinnamon gurl said...

Yeah I don't know why I'm complaining about winter on a day like today when it's reasonably mild and bright...

our tv didn't even begin to do justice to Burtynsky's stuff, but some of his stuff left me flat outside of the documentary benefits... I loved his work at the Bangladeshi shipyard though.

Lisa b said...

I saw the Burtynsky show at the AGO. When was that? years ago...
Those shots of the ship graveyard in Bangladesh haunt me. The colours are so vivid and I was captivated by one, then my friend walked up and pointed out that the workers had no shoes on.

Lisa b said...

ps. I am always up for a good gripe if you need one while you single mom it.

ewe are here said...

I would love a portable career for the very same reason... gentler climate year round.

Aliki2006 said...

If it makes you feel any better, I'm sitting here longing for a good snow storm, so we can all have a snow day...

But I know what you mean--when we lived in upstate NY I *ached* for spring.

Beck said...

It was overcast and gloomy HERE. And tomorrow it's supposed to rain. Hooray.

Suz said...

I'm so glad that we're not the only ones who have mitten battles. My kids will happily put on hats, but mittens?!? No way!

Mad Hatter said...

I saw a Nature of Things episode on those Bangladeshi shipyards once. Devastating. And many of the ships are Canadian ships. Yup, that's us, dumping our toxic trash on the third world.

BTW, I'd be willing to bet money that I can't find Burtnsky anywhere in Sleepy Town.

As for winter--I thought of emailing Jen on the weekend to tell her to put up those vacation pictures again. I have definitely had my fill of this cold.

slouching mom said...

And in my state, we're wondering where winter is hiding itself.

I guess now I know the answer, you winter-hoggers! ;)

Nancy said...

The documentary sounds fascinating -- thanks for the mention -- I'll definitely look for it.

It's going to be mid-50s (F) here today. Heat wave!

Janna said...

You can come to Malawi! Though we definately have a bit of rain, nothing is frozen!!!