Manufactured Landscapes


Ok I know this is a very late since I watched this dvd couple months ago, but any ways.  In January, Adam let us watch a dvd called ‘Manufactured Landscapes it’s a feature length documentary on the world and work of renowned artist Edward Burtynsky. Burtynsky makes large scale photographs of ‘manufactured landscapes’  quarries, recycling yards, factories, mines, dams. He photographs civilization’s materials and debris, but in a way people describe as “stunning” or “beautiful,” and so raises all kinds of questions about ethics and aesthetics without trying to easily answer them.

The film follows Burtynsky to China as he travels the country photographing the evidence and effects of that country’s massive industrial revolution. Sites such as the Three Gorges Dam, which is bigger by 50% than any other dam in the world and displaced over a million people, factory floors over a kilometre long, and the breathtaking scale of Shanghai’s urban renewal are subjects for his lens and our motion picture camera. When the film started, I didn’t have a clue what this film was about until it shown a scene of a chinese factory going down the coridor then straight away i thought ‘oh… it’s about China’. Since I AM chinese but a ‘British born’ chinese, I pretty much knew what this film was about already the moment I saw chinese workers even though this is the first time I’ve seen and heard about  this film. I also already know about the manufactorying in China, the production, wastes etc but never actually seen what it was really like because China doesn’t want the world to see it until I saw the film and the level of what I thought it might be was no way near it.

Shot in Super-16mm film, Manufactured Landscapes extends the narrative streams of Burtynsky’s photographs, allowing us to meditate on our profound impact on the planet and witness both the epicentres of industrial endeavour and the dumping grounds of its waste. What makes the photographs so powerful is his refusal in them to be didactic. We are all implicated here, they tell us: there are no easy answers. The film continues this approach of presenting complexity, without trying to reach simplistic judgements or reductive resolutions. In the process, it tries to shift our consciousness about the world and the way we live in it.

After the film ended I thought it was a brilliant documentary but at the same time I felt quite sad and emotional watching it seeing the unknown parts of China which I mentioned earlier that they don’t want the world to see, the landscale pile of wastes polluting the area and water, the condition of what the people are going through. Yes it’s nice to see that China is catching up to the world like U.S.A. and U.K. etc but what about the people from the old tradition China?  These are the things that most people did not know about until the issue was raised when it was first known that China was gonna hold the Olympics 2008. Yes this is quite a ‘touchy’ subject for me to talk about but I dare NOT to talk about this to my dad or my step mum (she’s from China) because of ‘fear’ and I don’t know what they are like about it even though we seen this issue being talked about in the News (aboth Western news ie BBC News and News in Hong Kong and China).

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