“Oh the song of the future has been sung / All the battles have been won
On the mountain tops we stand / All the world at our command
We have opened up her soil / With our teardrops and our toil”
— Gordon Lightfoot, “Canadian Railroad Trilogy”
(TORONTO – August 17, 2011) A new exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario traces the history of Canada’s changing industrial landscape through the lens of some of the country’s most extraordinary photographers from the past 150 years. Songs of the Future: Canadian Industrial Photographs, 1858 to Today opens August 20 and includes more than 100 photographs by such artists as Alexander Henderson, William Notman, John Vanderpant, E. Haanel Cassidy, Ralph Greenhill, George Hunter and Edward Burtynsky.
Depicting railway and bridge building, quarries and mines, and the lumber, pulp and paper, and concrete industries in Canada, Songs of the Future traces the shifting perspectives on industry and the Canadian landscape from the Industrial Revolution to today. The exhibition highlights the ways in which the photographers’ perspectives on industry have shifted along with those of society at large, as celebratory images of human domination over nature give way to more critical views of industrial impact.
The exhibition is curated by Sophie Hackett, the AGO’s assistant curator of photography, who integrates works from various periods into thematic concentrations, including images featuring: the construction of the Victoria Bridge over the St. Lawrence River in the late 1850s; the building of the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company, a pulp-and-paper mill located in Grand Falls, Newfoundland, in 1912; and the development of the railroad in Canada.