Clint Burnham Enjoy your Petro-symptom!
Enjoy your Petro-symptom!: Burtynsky’s Oil and the Žiž
Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky's images of industrial waste and natural despoilation have shown in galleries around the world and been the subject of books, critical discourse, and a film (Manufactured Landscapes, directed Jennifer Baichwal, 2006). So what I am interested inBurtynsky's Oil series is how there then obtains an antagonism between their epic grandeur & size (which in effect bullies the viewer into a sublime submission) and their putative content or images (which in classic fetishistic disavowal, convey a formal beauty which nonetheless functions as a screen for desire: in effect, Burtynsky's photographs allow us to enjoy our petro-symptom). His work is often described as “sublime” for its large-format depiction of landscapes and ecological disaster: but what sublime are we talking about here? Burke's disquiet when confronted by natural disorder, or Kant's absolute breakdown of cognitive faculties?