Two cubes sit in an otherwise empty exhibition space. It is not until a specially designed app is activated that the visitor truly experiences two impressive and profound works of art at the centre of the new exhibition Anthropocene, on view at the National Gallery of Canada from September 28, 2018 to February 24, 2019.
One of the installations brings Sudan, the last male northern white rhinoceros who died last March at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, back to life through a detailed 3D image triggered by the app. The other enables the viewer to relive the largest burning of illegal ivory tusks in Kenya - representing the lost lives of more than 6,000 elephants.
The installations are a sample of the immersive technology used by renowned photographer Edward Burtynsky and award-winning filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier in their new exhibition Anthropocene which presents thought-provoking and beautiful artworks that explore such themes as deforestation, urbanisation, terraforming and extraction.
The show is part of a larger project based on the research of the Anthropocene Working Group, an international group of scientists who are trying to determine if the Earth has left the Holocene and entered a new geological epoch - the Anthropocene in which many geologically significant conditions and processes are profoundly altered by human activities.
“Solutions to the problems we face as a species and as stewards of the planet will be found in collaboration and community”, said Burtynsky, Baichwal and de Pencier. “This subject was so all-encompassing that it took five years and our three interwoven perspectives to realize, beginning with the inspiring research of the Anthropocene Working Group scientists, and leading to the extension of lens-based media in order to promote experiential understanding of the issues.”
In addition to the two augmented reality installations, the National Gallery of Canada will display 31 large-scale photographs, three high resolution wall-sized murals with film extensions embedded into them, as well as 12 film installations.
The images and films reveal profoundly altered landscapes that have been drained, drilled, excavated and extracted for their resources and material worth. What the artists also capture is the unsettling beauty in what has been left, while offering multiple opportunities for awareness that humans are the primary drivers of permanent planetary change.
“The exhibition reveals how art can function in the Anthropocene. Can it lead to new ways of thinking about ourselves in the world, our relations with one another, the environment, and other forms of life?” notes Andrea Kunard, Associate Curator at the Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada and curator of the exhibition at the Gallery. “Anthropocene also brings new types of experiences to the Gallery that I hope will extend our appreciation of the power of lens-based media like photography and film.”
A highlight of the exhibition is the display of several interactive experiences that feature innovative augmented reality projections. These can be accessed by all visitors who have downloaded the free exhibition app, which is then used to trigger the augmented reality installations and the film extensions in the high resolution murals. In order to fully experience the augmented reality installations and integrated video displays, visitors are encouraged to download the AVARA app, soon to be available at the Apple App Store and Google Play, to their phone or tablet before coming to the exhibition. A limited number of iPads with the app installed will also be available in the exhibition space.
Anthropocene includes an interactive area where visitors can learn more about The Anthropocene Project and share their comments about what they have seen and experienced touring the show. A thought-provoking educational program explores the issues raised in the photographs films and augmented reality installations. As Burtynsky himself noted, “The work asks more questions than it answers; which is what artists are there to do.”
The Ottawa premiere of the film Anthropocene (2018, Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier, Edward Burtynsky), a cinematic meditation on humanity’s massive reengineering of the planet, takes place September 27, 2018 at the National Gallery of Canada. Tickets may be purchased online through ShopNGC.ca. Four years in the making, the documentary was selected by TIFF to premiere as a special presentation at the 2018 festival. The Ottawa screening will be followed by a conversation with the filmmakers, moderated by Associate Curator Andrea Kunard.
Anthropocene is organized by the Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), and co-produced with the Fondazione MAST. A parallel exhibition will be on view at the AGO at the same time as the show at the Gallery. The simultaneous exhibitions are a rich pair of distinct experiences with certain key works appearing in both venues.
The exhibition is presented at the National Gallery of Canada with the generous support of Scotiabank, Founding Partner of the Canadian Photography Institute, and project partner TELUS.
Follow #AnthropoceneProject for updates.
The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue published by the Art Gallery of Ontario. The English and French editions are available for a special National Gallery of Canada Exclusive price of $30 from the Boutique and online at ShopNGC.ca.
Anthropocene, a 224 page clothbound, hardcover book (English only) featuring photographs by Edward Burtynksy, essays by the three artists, and specially commissioned poems by Margaret Atwood, is on sale at the Boutique and online at ShopNGC.ca for $127.50.
The public is invited to attend the official exhibition opening on Wednesday, September 26, starting at 6 pm in the Scotiabank Great Hall of the National Gallery of Canada. Admission is free.
On Thursday September 27, the National Gallery of Canada hosts the Ottawa premiere of the TIFF Special Presentation film Anthropocene (dir. Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier, Edward Burtynsky, 2018, 87 minutes). The screening will be followed by a conversation with the filmmakers, moderated by Associate Curator Andrea Kunard. Tickets are $12 for Members and $15 for non-members. Tapas package is an additional $25. Tickets are available online here.
Meet the expert series
Andrea Kunard – Art and the Anthropocene
On Saturday, September 29, from 1:30 to 2:30 pm, join Andrea Kunard, Associate Curator at the Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada and co-curator of Anthropocene, as she explains how art and the art museum can help us understand, reflect on, and engage with pressing issues of our time. In English with bilingual question period.
David Jaclin – Exploring anthropos
On Saturday, November 3, from 1:30 to 2:30 pm, join David Jaclin, Professor of Sociological and Anthropological Studies at Ottawa University, in an exploration of the concept of anthropos (Greek for “human”): “If Anthropos is indeed at the origin of a new geological epoch, then we should ask ourselves who is this human we’re talking about; to which concept of humanity does the word refer, and how do we identify responsibilities and powers, problems and solutions?” In French with bilingual question period.
Heather Davis – Consequences of the Anthropocene
On Saturday, November 24, from 1:30 to 2:30 pm, join Heather Davis, Assistant Professor of Culture and Media at The New School in New York, as she explores some of the queer, unintended consequences of the current environmental crisis, from the birth of new organisms to re-envisioning wasted landscapes. Drawing on new work by Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier, the talk will focus on how artists are approaching the novel ecologies of the Anthropocene. In English with bilingual question period.
Sean Kheraj – The Anthropocene in Canada
On Saturday, February 23, 2019, from 1:30 to 2:30 pm, join Sean Kheraj, Associate Professor of Canadian and Environmental History at York University, as he examines the history of the creation of Canada’s first transcontinental oil pipelines and their subsequent expansion and growth from the late 1940s to the mid-1970s as the country made this consequential energy transition. In English with bilingual question period.
The Walrus Talks Connections
On Tuesday, September 18, from 7 to 10 pm, the National Gallery of Canada will host The Walrus Talks Connections, which features seven Order of Canada recipients, including Edward Burtynsky. The event, which is in English with simultaneous translation, will be followed by a reception. Tickets range from $12 to $20.
On Wednesday, January 23 from 10:30 am to noon, as part of the National Gallery of Canada Lecture Series, Andrea Kunard, Associate Curator at the Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada and co-curator of Anthropocene, will provide an overview of the exhibition. In English with bilingual question period. Individual ticket: $12 ($8 for Members); Lecture Series ticket: $60 ($40 for Members).
From October 1, 2018 to February 22, 2019, learn how human activities are transforming our planet through a selection of large-scale interactive photographs and augmented reality installations. iPads will be available for augmented reality interaction. Price: $8 per adult plus admission.
Hours of operation
Until September 30, 2018, the Gallery is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm, and on Thursdays from 10 am to 8 pm. As of October 1, 2018, the Gallery will be open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm, and on Thursdays from 10 am to 8 pm. Holiday exceptions apply, and hours are subject to change without notice. For more information, visit gallery.ca.
The exhibition is free with admission to the Gallery: $15 (adults); $13 (seniors); $7 (age 24 and under and full-time students); $30 (families: two adults and three youth, 17 and under). Admission is free for children age 11 and under and for Members. Includes admission to the national collection, and all exhibitions. Free admission on Thursdays from 5 pm to 8 pm. To find out more, visit gallery.ca.
Exhibition catalogues are available for purchase at the Gallery Boutique and online at ShopNGC.ca, allowing visitors to revisit their favourite works of art for years to come. The Boutique opens at 10 am daily. There is a 15% discount for Members.
NGCmagazine.ca is a beautifully illustrated online source of information about the Canadian and international art world, as well as the National Gallery of Canada’s activities and programming. The digital magazine includes articles about upcoming and travelling exhibitions, behind-the-scenes features, artists’ profiles, book reviews and interviews. This month, read The Proust Questionnaire: Edward Burtynsky. NGC Magazine is free and published here. Subscribe to the NGC Magazine newsletter here.
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About the artists
Edward Burtynsky is known as one of the world's most respected photographers. His remarkable photographic depictions of global industrial landscapes are included in the collections of over 60 major museums around the world, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Tate Modern in London, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum and the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in California. His imagery explores the collective impact we as a species are having on the surface of the planet; an inspection of the human systems we’ve imposed onto natural landscapes. Burtynsky’s distinctions include the TED Prize, The Outreach award at the Rencontres d’Arles, the Roloff Beny Book award, and the Rogers Best Canadian Film Award. He sits on the board of directors for CONTACT: Toronto’s International Photography Festival, and The Ryerson Gallery and Research Center. In 2006, he was awarded the title of Officer of the Order of Canada; in 2016, he received the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts. Most recently Burtynsky was named Photo London’s 2018 Master of Photography and the Mosaic Institute’s 2018 Peace Patron. He currently holds eight honorary doctorate degrees. The National Gallery of Canada organized and toured the first retrospective of Burtynsky’s work, Manufactured Landscapes, in 2003.
Jennifer Baichwal has been directing and producing documentaries for 25 years. Her films have played all over the world and won multiple awards nationally and internationally, including an International Emmy, three Gemini Awards, and Best Cultural and Best Independent Canadian Documentary at Hot Docs for features such as Let It Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles, The Holier It Gets, Act of God, and Payback. Manufactured Landscapes won, among others, TIFF’s Best Canadian Film and Al Gore’s Reel Current Award. It played theatrically in more than 15 territories worldwide, and was named as one of 150 Essential Works In Canadian Cinema History by TIFF in 2016. The feature documentary Watermark premiered at TIFF 2013, and won the Toronto Film Critics Association prize for Best Canadian Film. It has since been released in eleven countries. In recent years, Baichwal and filmmaker Nicholas de Pencier have expanded into film installation work, and have exhibited at the Art Gallery of Ontario and Nuit Blanche, among others. Baichwal and de Pencier were also co-directors of Long Time Running, a feature documentary on the Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip’s final tour which premiered at TIFF 2017. Baichwal sits on the board of Swim Drink Fish Canada, and is a member of the Ryerson University School of Image Arts Advisory Council. She has been a Director of the Board of the Toronto International Film Festival since 2016, and is a passionate ambassador of their Share Her Journey campaign, a five-year commitment to increasing participation, skills, and opportunities for women behind and in front of the camera. Anthropocene is her tenth feature documentary.
Nicholas de Pencier is a documentary Director, Producer, and Director of Photography. Selected credits include Let It Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles (International Emmy), The Holier It Gets, (Best Canadian Doc, Hot Docs), The True Meaning of Pictures (Gemini, Best Arts), Hockey Nomad (Gemini, Best Sports), Manufactured Landscapes, (TIFF Best Canadian Feature; Genie, Best Doc), and Act of God (Gala Opening Night, Hot Docs). He was the Producer and Director of Photography of Watermark, (Special Presentation, TIFF & Berlin; Toronto Film Critics Award, Best Canadian Film; CSA Best Documentary), and Black Code (TIFF 2016), which he also wrote and directed. De Pencier’s video art installations with Jennifer Baichwal include Watermark Cubed at Nuit Blanche 2014, Music Inspired by the Group of Seven, 2015, with the Rheostatics in Walker Court at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and Ice Forms, an installation room as part of the Lawren Harris Exhibition at the AGO in the summer of 2016. Most recently, de Pencier and Baichwal were co-directors (and de Pencier DOP) of Long Time Running, a feature documentary on the Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip’s final tour, which was a Gala presentation at TIFF 2017. de Pencier is on the board of directors of Hot Docs and DOC Toronto.
About the Canadian Photography Institute
The Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada is a creative and innovative centre dedicated to sharing, collecting, and questioning photography in all its forms. It brings people and communities together at the museum, online, and around publications to see, appreciate, and study photography. The Canadian Photography Institute was established in 2015 and officially launched in October 2016. Its collections build upon the National Gallery’s Photographs Collection. The Institute benefits from the unprecedented support of CPI’s Founding Partner Scotiabank, the Archive of Modern Conflict and the National Gallery of Canada Foundation. For more information, visit: gallery.ca/cpi.
About the National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery of Canada is home to the most important collections of historical and contemporary Canadian art. The Gallery also maintains Canada’s premier collection of European Art from the 14th to the 21st centuries, as well as important works of American, Asian and Indigenous Art and renowned international collections of prints, drawings and photographs. In 2015, the National Gallery of Canada established the Canadian Photography Institute, a global multidisciplinary research centre dedicated to the history, evolution and future of photography. Created in 1880, the National Gallery of Canada has played a key role in Canadian culture for well over a century. Among its principal missions is to increase access to excellent works of art for all Canadians. For more information, visit gallery.ca and follow us on Twitter @NatGalleryCan.
About the Art Gallery of Ontario
Located in Toronto, Canada’s largest city of 6.5 million, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is one of the largest art museums in North America. The AGO’s collection of close to 95,000 works ranges from cutting-edge contemporary art such as Untilled by Pierre Huyghe to European masterpieces such as Peter Paul Rubens’s The Massacre of The Innocents; from the vast collection by the Group of Seven to works by established and emerging Indigenous Canadian artists; with a photography collection that tracks the impact of the medium with deep holdings of works by artists such as Garry Winogrand and Diane Arbus; and with focused collections in Gothic boxwood miniatures and Western and Central African art. Drawing on this collection—as well as collaborations with museums around the world—the AGO presents wide-ranging exhibitions and programs, taking special care to showcase diverse and underrepresented artists. A major expansion designed by Frank Gehry in 2008 with lead support from the family of Ken Thomson makes the AGO a highly-photographed architectural landmark. Visit ago.ca and follow @AGOToronto to learn more.
About Fondazione MAST
Fondazione MAST is a non-profit institution in Bologna, Italy, created in 2013 to develop a cultural centre (MAST), which aims to promote corporate and social welfare, to foster creativity among the younger generations by offering educational programs for children, teenagers and adults, and to support projects related to photography. The MAST Collection consists of more than 3000 works that trace the history of photography and tell the story of the extraordinary significance of industry and labour from the end of the 19th century until today. The PhotoGallery is an exhibition space curated by Urs Stahel presenting group and solo projects by celebrated photographers and younger talents. Fondazione MAST also organizes Foto/Industria, the Biennial of Photography on Industry and Work, which celebrated its third year in 2017 with 14 exhibitions. Visit mast.org for more information.
About the National Gallery of Canada Foundation
The National Gallery of Canada Foundation is dedicated to supporting the National Gallery of Canada in fulfilling its mandate. By fostering strong philanthropic partnerships, the Foundation provides the Gallery with the additional financial support required to lead Canada’s visual arts community locally, nationally and internationally. The blend of public support and private philanthropy empowers the Gallery to preserve and interpret Canada’s visual arts heritage. The Foundation welcomes present and deferred gifts for special projects and endowments. To learn more about the National Gallery of Canada Foundation, visit ngcfoundation.ca and follow us on Twitter @NGC_Foundation.
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