Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas

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Three Gorges Dam Project, Feng Jie #6, Yangtze River, China
  • Edward Burtynsky
    born 1955
    born: St. Catharines, Ontario province, Canada
  • Three Gorges Dam Project, Feng Jie #6, Yangtze River, China, 2002
  • Where object was made: China
  • chromogenic color print
  • Image Dimensions Height/Width: 76.2 x 101.6 cm
    Frame Dimensions: 86.4 x 104.1 cm
    Image Dimensions Height/Width: 30 x 40 in
    Frame Dimensions: 34 x 41 in
    Frame Dimensions: 35 x 42 x 1 1/2 in
    Weight: 18 lbs
  • Museum purchase: Helen Foresman Spencer Art Acquisition Fund
  • Not on display
  • 2004.0039
Label Text

Exhibition Label: “Conversation I: Place,” Oct-2007, Emily Stamey
The Three Gorges, China

The mighty Chang Jiang, also known as the Yangtze River, is the longest river in Asia and snakes through the region known as the Three Gorges. A place of magnificent natural wonder and immeasurable cultural memory, the Three Gorges encompass a relatively small region only 75 miles long. However the breathtaking landscape of precipitous cliffs, steep valleys, and perilous rapids has captivated countless generations of artists, who have immortalized the majestic landscape of the Three Gorges in poetry and painting.

The Three Gorges Dam-the largest hydroelectric river dam project in the world-will forever change this historic landscape. To make room for the colossal dam, which will flood an area measuring 395 square miles, 13 major cities, 140 towns and more than 1,300 villages, along with 1,600 factories and mines and an unknown number of farms had to be abandoned and 1.4 million people relocated by the time of its completion in 2009. The environmental impact of the Three Gorges Dam project will be immense, threatening everything from the breeding grounds of the Siberian Crane to causing erosion and sinking of coastal areas due to the blockage of the Yangtze’s large amounts of silt.
“I want to do quarries [and] there’re quarries in every country of the world. How do I arrive [as] to which quarry? So then it’s searching for the largest examples. It’s in that largesse that I find that scale becomes interesting; that the surreal begins to have a role within the frame; that you can find in these massive operations moments that are almost at the edge of imagination. We never realized that there were worlds like these that we have created.”

- Edward Burtynsky

Edward Burtynksy, quoted in “Manufactured Landscapes - Interview with Director Jennifer Baichwal and Photography Edward Burtynsky,” by Michael Guillen, June 5, 2007, posted on http://twitchfilm.net

“With his large-scale color photographs, Burtynsky explores the dilemma of our modern existence--the conflict between the desire to live well and the consciousness of the destructive power of such desire. The alluring quality in the aesthetic elegance of his photographs sharply contrasts with the repulsive nature of his subjects. However, the artist does not deal out social or moral accusations with his work; rather his work raises questions and facilitates dialogues about ethics and aesthetics without trying to give an easy answer.

“His Three Gorges Dam Project not only documents the project’s extensive impact on land, but also focuses on its human costs. The enormous scale of these modern "ruins" fascinated Burtynsky. In this photograph, he captured the city Feng Jie (Fengjie) in the process of being bulldozed--a last glimpse before all passing into oblivion.”

- Ai-Lian Liu, Art History graduate student and former Spencer intern