Beautiful Destruction Exhibition

Ottawa City Hall Public Gallery – July 23 – September 26, 2010

Selections from the 2010 Beautiful Destruction Exhibition public comment book



The seeds for the Beautiful Destruction book were sown with an art exhibition comment book at the 2010 Exhibition of Beautiful Destruction at the Ottawa City Hall Public Art Gallery.

This comment book became an interactive exhibit on to itself.  Many art exhibition comment books become thin collections of banal niceties written by the artist’s friends and family. This was not that kind of comment book; it took on a life of its own.

Over 500 people left comments. The exhibition seemed to strike a chord. Some representative comments have been transcribed here.

Some condemned me. Some praised me. Few seemed unmoved. People – pro-industry, pro-environment, anti-industry, anti-environment, or best of all none of these – wrote in response to each other (even crossing each other out) in a wonderful back and forth.

The other instructive experience was to see individuals returning to the gallery, with a friend, family member, colleague or neighbour, and overhear them earnestly explain the exhibition and its individual pieces. I realized, with that, that the art was now firmly placed where art best belongs – anchored in the imagination of the viewer.

This was the impetus behind the Beautiful Destruction book.

That art and what people might imagine creates space where respectful discourse becomes possible. Where – if we imagine it – we might just begin to see our fellow travellers as we see and understand ourselves and with that, perhaps, better see and understand ourselves.

I thought this might be a good way to address the divisive issue of the oil or tar sands where even their name cannot be agreed on.



“Beautiful pictures. Who thought you could make something like trucks and tar into art.”
Carrie, T. Edmonton, AB, July 26, 2010

“Such beautiful pictures but the devastation moves me to tears. Every Canadian needs to see
these!” Jackie, P., July 27, 2010

“Oil makes the world go round!” Dave, Ottawa, July 27, 2010

“Brilliant & poignant – Fantastic work” C. Wheeler, Ottawa, July 29, 2010

“Guernica in Canada. Frightening, but we are all part of it.” A. Romain, Aug 14, 2010

“Stunning, chilling, artistic. The title of the exhibit is most appropriate.” Jetons, Aug 17, 2010

“Another CRAP exhibit which as a 50 year old taxpayer in this senselessly ‘administered’
squanderous city I object. Sorry I missed the Royal Visit exhibition which I came to see. I
understand it was well done.” C.R. N Aug 10, 2010

“Ur art is rly cool it’s so 3D :-)” Chloe S. Sept 7, 2010

“This should be mandatory viewing for our parliamentarians and senior bureaucrats.” Aug 16,

“The content of this book and the comments are so much more stimulating than the online
comments sections of mainstream media. Please keep helping us live in an engaged and
thoughtful society.” Aug 20, 2010

“Amazing – Gavin (who is 2 loved the dump trucks!) Thank you.” Kare and Gavin, Ottawa, Aug
9, 2010

“We had better hope that our descendants don’t figure out how to build a time machine.”
David Sept 13, 2010

“Your pictures astonish me beyond all measure. My partner and I have been standing here an
hour, hugging each other for dear life, awestruck, learning about the tar sands and the people
who live and work there in the most powerful way … . Please continue your amazing work.”
Sarah and Michael G., Montreal QC, Aug 20, 2010

“Absolutely mystifying. Poignant and beautiful all at once. Emotionally conflicting between the
creative presentation of the topic and the visual impact of the reality behind it. Thank you for
such an honest, objective depiction of a serious global issue. I hope others feel the same.”
Elise S-M, Aug 24, 2010

“It’s nice to see something interesting at City Hall – delights the senses.” C.T. H. Nepean, Aug
25, 2010

“Without this development imagine what your taxes would be!” Sept 1, 2010

“It’s interesting that you used a petroleum powered vehicle to take these anti-tar sands
photos. Of course, we don’t yet have any other vehicles, now do we.” David, Aug 28, 2010

“Variment belles photos, très originale. Who needs to paint when you can take these kinds of
picture!” Jessica B., Aug 9, 2010

“Pretentious shit if you ask me.” Wude, Aug 9, 2010

“(we didn’t ask)” Anon

“I will ride my bike more …

I will ride my bike more …

I will ride my bike more …

(reality is frightening when you SEE it!) Aug 18, 2010

“The power of art: to inform and inspire; to stimulate interest and response” Des D., Ottawa,
Sept 1, 2010

“Damn the environmentalists! More oil production!! Just beautiful.” Paco M. Sept 5, 2010

“Like ‘Avatar’ but OUR home” J. Aug 24, 2010

“The beauty is in the visual abstraction and purity of composition. It factually documents the
impact (large) of humans on exploiting and manipulating nature for power. The sun lights it
impartially.” E. King Sept 8, 2010

“It seems at cross purposes to make something as sordid and disrespectful to the Earth’s eco-
system – and presenting it as something ‘beautiful.’ As an ‘artist’ you have the right, but as a
‘grass roots’ person who care about the future of the planet … I think you’re using very
conflictual issues to create something ‘beautiful.’ Do you work for an oil company?” Rose C.
Sept 17, 2010

“Canada is becoming the oil industry’s bitch. Wake up. A. B., Ottawa Sept 14, 2010

“Really incredible images – surrealistic quality is amazing.” Pamela C, Aug 4, 2010

“Mindblowing!” H. A. H Aug 9, 2010

“‘Overburden’ – what a euphemism for topsoil & natural foliage & wildlife. I’ve looked over a
number of the other comments. Some get the point, some miss it, still others hold it in utter
contempt. I don’t know which of the latter two frighten me the most. Wishing you well, one
storyteller to another.” Dwight W. Aug 18, 2010

“Alluvial Fan is very high fashion! Love the arché, textural and graphic effect, e.g. Sulphur
Piles and Camp. Thanks, L Eric W. Perth, ON Sept 8, 2010

“There is nothing beautiful about this calamity! Shame on you for trying to profiteer off it!”
G.R. Aug 8, 2010

“It is true there are many places that are a mess. But, where are the photos of the land that
has been reclaimed? They’re not here because it just looks like a forest. There is cost no
doubt, but with that cost comes responsibility.” Marty Aug 20, 2010

“Thanks for taking the photos and bringing them to the public eye. Scary, but at the same
time good to see what’s happening from a unique vantage point.” Louise St. G. Aug 8, 2010

“I think you have expressed it best when you wrote “… as good and bad, as beautiful and
destructive as we are as human beings.” Who are we to judge, and who has the answers? All I
know is you’ve made me think twice, and you’ve captured the tar sands, and issues, in a
thought provoking way. My thanks.” A., Sept 18, 2010

“Keep going we need more art like this. Thank you!” Aug 7, 2010

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