Wednesday, October 1, 2008

MANUFACTURED LANDSCAPES (Jennifer Baichwal, 2006, USA) A photograph is worth a thousand words…or more. But sometimes a still image goes beyond our stilted concrete language and burrows deeper into our minds, or the pit of our stomachs, and makes us feel in a primal way, close to nature, sibling to a changing planet or parent of a corrosive ecosystem. Edward Burtynsky is concerned with capturing celluloid composites, static visions of the world and how we relate to mother earth and each other. Both living, both dreaming, but while the world slumbers we thunder upon its surface and burrow into its womb, ignorantly aborting thousands of species or possibly future human generations. But we cannot live in our environment without changing it; and we should change it to better our lives while existing in harmony. Burtynsky’s film begins in a sweatshop with a seven-minute tracking shot through a factory, reducing the complex human condition to a broken machine, programmed to repeat the same mindless protocols again and again. From this dehumanizing sequence to fields of trash and debris, we equate this spiritual detritus with the savage landscape of Bosch’s hellfire, our bodies eaten by these unstoppable cannibalistic forces, created not by nature but by ourselves. We shit where we eat and suffer the consequences. Interestingly, the film breaks the fourth wall and shows Burtynsky creating compositions by placing children amid trash heaps, or a man leading a mule through muddy street. This is the power of the image, whether it’s frozen or moving at 24 frames-per-second, and how the creator manipulates the viewer. Jump cuts or dissolves from broken landscapes to the photographs that hang in galleries, where passionate and empathetic people like us admire the work is quite startling. The film isn’t a documentary with a conventional agenda: the narration is sparse and it’s mostly Burtynsky speaking about his experience or inspiration. He casts no judgment or aspersions, he’s only communicating through his pictures: the translation belongs to us. (B)

No comments: