Reviewer’s grade: B-
Director/producer Jennifer Baichwal documents Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky’s 2001 trip through China, where he photographed many industrial sites. He visits a ship-breaking facility, a facility where they recycle computer components cast off by the iniquitous West, and the Three Gorges Dam construction site, among others.
While Burtynsky’s photographs of mountainous piles of computer chips and coal, partially disassembled ships and factories the size of cities are powerful, Burtynsky’s running (though thankfully sparse) commentary about his own work is annoying and unnecessary. The guy might be a good photographer, but he isn’t a good art critic. He comes off sounding pretentious and self-important, which takes away from the actual importance of the images.
He claims his art isn’t meant to be judgmental, but the guy’s a raging environmentalist, so you do the math. It’s too bad, because if Baichwal had just left Burtynsky out and let the images tell the story this would be a hundred times more compelling. Playing exclusively at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art on Thursday, April 17. NR