Nature Canada

Artist Shows the ‘Beautiful Destruction’ of the Tar Sands

Artist Louis Helbig flew over Alberta’s tar sands last summer and this is what he saw:

This image, which out of context could be described as quite beautiful with its curves and mocha colours, in fact shows bitumen residue corralled by floating pipes over toxic water at Syncrude’s Aurora North facility. It is here, at this tailings pond, where 1,600 ducks were killed in spring 2008 when they landed here to rest.
The image is part of a collection showing at At Koma Designs in Toronto, Ontario, right now until May 31. The exhibit is called Beautiful Destruction, and chronicles part of what professional photographer Helbig saw on a visit to Fort McMurray, Alberta.
Helbig’s photos address the highly controversial issue of Canada’s tar sands in ways that words cannot, and begin to reveal the sheer scope and scale of industrial development taking place in our North. From the artist’s statement:

The Alberta Tar Sands are a place of superlatives, a place of awesome beauty and destruction where exaggeration of scale and proportion seems almost impossible. Leaving aside the politics that surround them or their technical specifics, the Tar Sands are simply awe inspiring. With every twist and turn of the airplane, another incredible scene presents itself, followed by another. It’s a linear kaleidoscope of contrasts, colours, and patterns garnished by the movement of machinery below, smoke and effluent; the scene resetting, again and again, as the paint of photography – light – makes its daily changes. Morning, mid-day, evening, the passing of clouds.

Here’s another image from the exhibit — from Suncor’s Millennium mine, trucks remove the first layer of earth, sand and gravel, called ‘overburden’, to get to the bitumen.
If you’re in the Toronto area check out Helbig’s exhibit as part of the Contact Toronto Photography Festival (or meet the artist at a closing party May 28) or take a look online. The collection will also be coming to Ottawa June 6 and 7 for the New Art Festival.

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