As the campus scenery dulls to muted whites and grays this fall, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art continues to provide members of the college community with other sources of aesthetic pleasure. This fall, one of these visual escapes is the photographic exhibit, "Competed Landscapes: Edward Burtynsky's Views of China." Burtynsky's large-format images, on display in the Center Gallery, reveal the environmental consequences of industrialization.

Burtynsky's photographs capture the emergence of production facilities and housing projects that are replacing old factories, mines and shipyards in China, as well as disrupting the natural world and rural populations. Through his powerful depictions of China and the global-crisis generated by international waste, Burtynsky "encapsulates the swift cycle of production and decay as it relates to a nation transitioning into a new industrial revolution," according to an inscription in the exhibit.

The size of the images makes them particularly engaging. By providing these images in large-format, details that might be overlooked are enlarged and comprise a significant part of the image. Attention is drawn to every bit of debris and detritus as well as to the intricacy and expanse of the industrial cityscape.

Burtynsky's exhibit is a central component to a number of campus attractions that are currently confronting the questions of industrialization and natural destruction. The opening of the exhibit corresponded most directly with filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal's visit to campus for the screening of her documentary "Manufactured Landscapes." This documentary focuses on Burtynsky's photographs and photographic experience in China. Baichwal's visit inaugurated a year-long series of public events entitled "Seeking the Common Good," presented alongside the Joseph McKeen Center for the Common Good.

Bowdoin College faculty gathered recently to present a cross-disciplinary lecture and discussion regarding Baichwal's documentary and Burtynsky's exhibit. Assistant Professor of Art Michael Kolster, Associate Professor of Asian Studies Schu-chin Tsui, Professors of Sociology Craig McEwen and Susan Bell, and and Associate Professor of Film Studies Tricia Welsch engaged in the discussion. The cross-disciplinary nature of the provocative discussion emphasized the universality of the topic at hand.

"The lecture was an extremely productive exchange," Welsch said. "It pushed everyone to realize that there were so many different ways to enter this subject matter. Both speakers and people in the audience brought in ways to talk about the material that drew on the resources of their own disciplines."

The same can be said for the exhibit itself.

"Everyone can find something provocative that strikes them, be it from an environmentalist to a literary point of view," she said.

Burtynsky's work does not solely depict a seemingly distant world in China; his images have a universal nature.

"This is a major photographer, showing us things that without privileged access we wouldn't be able to see in our everyday lives," Welsch said. "And more importantly, they are images of a destruction that implicates us all. Looking at Burtynsky's images you do feel yourself and your presence. Going to this exhibit is a fascinating and thought provoking opportunity to see things that we would never see yet that we have helped to make happen."

Fellow panelist Tsui echoed Welsch's sentiments.

"We realize where our e-waste is shipped to and abandoned. In seeing this exhibit we realize that every single one of us is responsible for our environmental protection," she said.

Burtynsky's photographs deliver provocative depictions of the ways in which global industrious actions leave an indelible imprint on the world. At their core they are disturbing images, but they are also incredibly beautiful, according to Welsch.

"They are fascinating to look at," she said. "In their detail and in their enormity, Burtynsky captures the awesome scale of the impact we make on the planet. They are interesting and beautiful and endlessly fascinating."

"Competed Landscapes: Edward Burtynsky's Views of China" will show in the Center Gallery through December 23, 2008. The "Seeking the Common Good" series will continue throughout the school year.