BP Oil Spill: Poem Analysis

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When assessing Burtynsky’s photography in relation to the BP oil spill, Lance Duerfahrd notes how Burtynsky’s photography encourages viewers “to become art historians” by way of “abstraction” (Duerfahrd 126). “Bitumen” also asks this of its readers by situating Burtynsky’s photography within the tradition of the sublime, while it also compels scrutiny of the “anaesthetics” and abstraction at work in Burtynsky’s OIL. In the following passage, the poem describes “Burtynsky’s drone helicopters” and the photographs of the Alberta Oil Sands he is able to take with them:

. . . Foreground entered at distance, the eye surveils the McMurray Formation’s freestanding ruin mid-aspect to an infinity of abstraction.

In Burtynsky’s photographs of the Oil Sands the foreground of the image is, as “Bitumen” points out, at a vast
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In an interview, Burtynsky notes how, “If you look at the scale of the city and its volume and its space, there is an equivalent negative space somewhere out there in a landscape” (Campbell 42). We can also view this separation between the spaces where the majority of humans dwell and the sites that produce the raw materials which sustain them within the framework of Jameson’s postmodern sublime. Jameson notes that, “the phenomenological experience of the individual subject ... becomes limited to a tiny corner of the social world, a fixed-camera view of a certain section of London or the countryside or whatever.” Herein, we have only a restricted and localized view, with nearly all the material sources that support modern, urban existence remaining unseen. Jameson goes on to assert that the “truth of that limited daily experience of London lies, rather, in India or Jamaica or Hong Kong; it is bound up with the whole colonial system of the British Empire that determines the very quality of the individual 's subjective life” (Jameson “Cognitive”

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