In class, we viewed Edward Burtynsky’s documentary titled Manufactured Landscapes, which focused on the world’s industrial culture and its effects. The film mainly focused on the manufacturing giants, primarily China. The documentary sadly did not come as a major surprise to me, either because of personal research as an environmentalist or due to over exposure to this erosive culture.
The opening shot to the documentary, which was intriguingly long, captured this seemingly never ending warehouse with row after row of workers assembling a large variety of products. The workers remain unemotional and very few look at the camera as to not miss a beat in their process. Whether or not the employees – who are borderline inmates – find their companies’ production, methods, and even existence, perhaps, morally and environmentally wrong, the insanely inflated population must put thoughts aside because having a job ends up being more important to them. Short-term survival of citizens in a workaholic society outweighs the importance of long-term survival of the Earth.
The images of the manufacturing warehouses, the workers, their products, and their trash were very symmetrical, structural, and incorporated a lot of triangles. True, the subject matter and subject of an industrial planet were key components to the images that obviously strike viewers of all kinds. The idea behind the images is just as over talked about as what was in the documentary – which was essentially the behind the scenes making-of compilation for the photographs. But the extremely structuralized nature of the images is equally important. The dynamic triangular shapes within the photographs direct attention and are used to play with the notion of stability versus instability. There are many stable triangles within the man-made structures, suggesting that humanity has a very firm establishment on Earth to build upon, but with the repetitiveness and long depths of field, the images urge the viewer to recognize that too much of something is destructive. The photographs strengthen this concept with the use of symmetry and parallelism, creating an endless cookie cutter society.
For this reaction paper, I could have chosen to focus, in depth, on the disgusting industrial wastelands tucked away in beautiful foreign lands or the selfless, robotic appearance of those who contribute to it or the idea that we are all to blame. But these subjects are spoken of, written about, and documented way too much. Yes, we are a major problem and threat to the future of our species and our planet, but pointing out the ugly truth about our self-perpetuated extinction is useless when we simply listen to speakers and look at images taken on the other side of the globe. The most painful aspect of the documentary was not the visuals of the film itself, but the fact resting in the back of my mind that nothing major has changed for the better since the making of it.