Queen’s University has partnered with world-renowned Canadian photographer, and Queen’s Honorary Doctorate recipient (2007), Edward Burtynsky to help realize his new public art piece titled Standing Whale.
According to a release from the university, the partnership will engage the expertise and innovative thinking of students in multiple programs across the Faculties of Engineering and Applied Science, and the Faculty of Arts and Science. As part of the 2021-22 curriculum, special projects in these programs will be designed to tackle structural and conceptual challenges with the aim of bringing this artwork to life in a public setting.
“My hope is that this public art sculpture, Standing Whale, will become a true Canadian statement: one that symbolizes our commitment to protecting the environment, our cultural institutions and heritage, as well as our efforts to ensure that our planet experiences a positive Anthropocene instead of a negative one,” said Burtynsky.
On the heels of the critically acclaimed and highly successful Anthropocene project, Edward Burtynsky is continuing to push his artistic practice into the third dimension with the creation of his first large-scale public sculptural work, according to the release. Standing Whale, a true-to-size, 75-foot artistic re-imagining inspired by the retrieved skeletons that washed ashore in 2014, becomes an acknowledgement to the power of telling our human stories, the university said, only this time as a three-dimensional sculpture rather than a two-dimensional image.
“Through the duration of this partnership with Queen’s University and the deployment of these multidisciplinary special projects, students will have an opportunity to engage with this artwork in a tangible way and work towards achieving feats of both engineering and storytelling alongside Canada’s most prolific contemporary photographer,” said Dean Barbara Crow, Faculty of Arts and Science.
Based on the story of a pod of North Atlantic Blue Whales that perished in an unprecedented ice event off the coast of Newfoundland in 2014, Standing Whale is a thematic continuation of Burtynsky’s 40-year artistic practice looking at the impacts of humans on the planet. When the bodies of these whales washed ashore following their demise, there were only an estimated 250 left of the population. This pod represented 4 per cent of the population at the time. The North Atlantic Blue Whale, like so many other species worldwide, is at risk of becoming a casualty of the climate crisis and Standing Whale acts as an homage to and lament for this loss, according to the release.
“Edward Burtynsky creates compelling, passionate calls to action on climate change,” said Dean Kevin Deluzio, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. “Contributing to Standing Whale represents an opportunity for our faculty and students to take on unique engineering challenges that span the disciplines of engineering but also rely on collaboration with our colleagues from the arts and sciences.”
Learn more about the partnership here.