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Awe for Anthropocene

December 14th, 2018

An aerial photograph of a river in Nigeria polutted with gasoline runoff creating a rainbow slick on the water's surface.

Edward Burtynsky. Oil Bunkering #1, Niger Delta, Nigeria, 2016. Pigment inkjet print, 148.6 x 198.1 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto. © 2018 Edward Burtynsky.

Our major exhibition Anthropocene, on view until January 6, is a celebrated collaboration between Canadian artists Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier and features stunning large-scale photographs, murals, films and immersive augmented reality (AR) installations that reveal the scale of human impact on the Earth. The exhibition is part of a multidisciplinary project, which includes a critically acclaimed documentary film, an AGO-produced catalogue, an art book by Steidl and a podcast that made Apple Podcasts’ Best of 2018 list!

Haven’t visited this evocative exhibition yet? Hear from the experts why you should see it before it’s too late.

The Globe and Mail called the project “a chilling, yet sometimes beautiful, examination of the indelible and spreading mark of human activity on the planet.” The Toronto Star notes that the project conjures “the kind of majesty and scale that only the primal force of violent nature, operating at planetary scale, could yield.”

The BBC’s Cameron Laux‘s review spoke about the complex emotions he experienced while viewing the exhibition. “Looking at those pictures makes the soul soar. But they are also a reminder that there is currently no ecology on Earth that isn’t in some way threatened.”

Apollo Magazine asked Burtynsky if he “deliberately aims for a tension” between the beauty of the images in the exhibition and the reality of the environmental damage they depict. When speaking on CBC’s The Current, Burtynsky said that “invoking a sense of wonder is a key tool artists bring to the table… It creates a place for people to not only process the reality these images portray, but also reimagine these wastelands.”

Canada’s National Observer wrote, “human destruction of the environment has, perhaps, never before looked this beautiful.” Environmental blog Treehugger stated, “an online photo cannot do [the images] justice, cannot begin to convey the power of these images.”

In conversation with The Georgia Straight, Baichwal addressed the experience of the project saying, “…the ambiguity is the key to the experience, because if these images were not compelling, then they wouldn’t invite you to contemplate. Through contemplation comes a kind of shift in consciousness; a recognition of your own connection to these places.”

AGO visitors joined the conversation on social media. Here are some of our favourites from Twitter and Instagram. Share your thoughts using the hashtag #AnthropoceneProject.

Screen capture of a tweet from a visitor to the Anthropocene exhibition.

Screen capture of an Instagram post from a visitor to the Anthropocene exhibition.

Don’t miss Anthropocene, on now until January 6. Timed-entry tickets are available now at, in person and by phone.

And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast. Download it now from our websiteApple PodcastsGoogle Play or wherever you subscribe to podcasts.

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