Carrara Marble Quarries

Edward Burtynsky, Carrara Marble Quarries, Cava di Canalgrande #2, Carrara, Italy, 2016. Mural, 304.8 x 609.6 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto. © Edward Burtynsky, 2018.


September 28, 2018 – January 6, 2019

Visit for Free. Become a Member today!


“Our ambition is for the work to be revelatory, not accusatory, as we examine human influence on the Earth both on a planetary scale and in geological time. The shifting of consciousness is the beginning of change.”

– Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal, and Nicholas de Pencier


Anthropocene dramatically illustrates how we, individually and collectively, are leaving a human signature on our world.

World-renowned photographer Edward Burtynsky and multiple award-winning filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier have created a powerful series of new photographs, including large-scale murals augmented by film extensions, film installations and augmented reality (AR) installations, that take us to places we are deeply connected to – but normally never see.

The artists travelled to countries on every continent, save Antarctica, documenting irreversible marks of human activity. Informed by scientific research, powered by aesthetic vision, inspired by a desire to bear witness, they reveal the scale and gravity of our impact on the planet.

We have reached an unprecedented moment in planetary history. Humans now change the Earth’s systems more than all natural forces combined. This is the central argument of the proposed current geological epoch: the Anthropocene.

Organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada, in partnership with Fondazione MAST

Watch the Video




The exhibition is a component of The Anthropocene Project, a multidisciplinary initiative from the award-winning trio of photographer Edward Burtynsky and filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier. 

The Project’s starting point is research from the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG), an international group of scientists advocating to officially change the name of our present geological epoch, Holocene, to Anthropocene, in recognition of the changes humans have made to the Earth’s systems. The AWG’s research categories, such as anthroturbation, species extinction, technofossils, and terraforming, are represented and explored in various media as evidence of our species’ permanent planetary impact.

Anthropocene is co-organized with the Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada, where a concurrent exhibition is currently on view, and Fondazione MAST, Bologna, Italy, where the show will travel in the spring of 2019.


The three artists created a series of compelling visual experiences, using both new and traditional lens-based media, in order to capture scenes of our human signature, and to convey the complexity and significance of the Anthropocene age. The artists travelled to locations as diverse as Nigeria, Indonesia, China, Australia and Germany. For the artists, no single medium alone is capable of conveying the necessary urgency or creating the necessary impact.


The exhibition will be anchored by about 30 new and newly released large-scale dramatic colour photographs by Edward Burtynsky, all of which show signs of human activity, including striking scenes of mines, landfills, cities, agricultural sites, deserts and forests.

Film Installations

Baichwal and de Pencier have created a set of film installations, highlighting our human impact through duration. Gotthard Base Tunnel, Gotthard, Switzerland (2018) for instance, is shot in the world’s longest railway tunnel running 57 km through the Swiss Alps, an example of anthroturbation – large-scale human tunnelling. Other subjects include technofossil environments, industrial processes and resource extraction.

High-resolution Murals and Film Extensions

The exhibition will also include massive high-resolution photographic murals by Edward Burtynsky – at approximately 10 by 20 feet each – with select film clips, or film extensions, by Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier. These film extensions enhance understanding of context and detail in Burtynsky’s murals, and reference the relationship between mediums in Burtynsky, Baichwal, and de Pencier's larger collaborative work. The murals and film extensions in Anthropocene convey unique and compelling experiences of terraforming, population density, and biodiversity.

Augmented Reality (AR) Installations

The artists will debut three new augmented reality (AR) installations, a new and complex type of image that conveys the most convincing three-dimensionality to date – built from thousands of individual images photogrammetrically mapped onto a virtual volume. These installations will present experiences of confiscated ivory tusks; Sudan, the last male northern white rhino until his death in March 2018; and the second-largest Douglas fir tree (known as Big Lonely Doug), at or near actual scale. All three experiences highlight species threatened by extinction due to intensive human activity, another key marker of the Anthropocene. This immersive technology allows viewers – using a smartphone or tablet with the AVARA app – to move around an object as a kind of virtual sculpture in the gallery space. 


Edward Burtynsky

Edward Burtynsky is one of the world’s most respected photographers. His imagery captures scenes of human impact on the land, and his remarkable photographic depictions of industrial landscapes around the world are displayed in leading galleries and major museums, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in California. The National Gallery of Canada organized and toured the first retrospective of Burtynsky’s work, Manufactured Landscapes, in 2003.

Burtynsky’s work has been recognized and celebrated with a TED Prize, The Outreach Award at the Rencontres d’Arles, the Roloff Beny Book Award and the Rogers Best Canadian Film Award.

He sits on the board of directors for CONTACT: Toronto’s International Photography Festival, and The Ryerson Gallery and Research Center. In 2006 he was awarded the title of Officer of the Order of Canada; in 2016 he received the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts. Most recently Burtynsky was named Photo London's 2018 Master of Photography and the Mosaic Institute’s 2018 Peace Patron. He currently holds eight honorary doctorate degrees.

Jennifer Baichwal

Jennifer Baichwal has directed and produced documentaries for over 20 years. Her films have played all over the world and won multiple awards nationally and internationally, including an International Emmy, three Gemini Awards, and Best Cultural and Best Independent Canadian Documentary at Hot Docs, for features such as Let It Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles, The Holier It Gets, Act of God, and Payback. Manufactured Landscapes was released in 12 countries and won numerous international awards, including Best Canadian Feature Film at Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in 2006 and Al Gore’s Reel Current Award. The feature documentary Watermark (co-directed by Edward Burtynsky, produced and filmed by Nicholas de Pencier) premiered at TIFF in September 2013, and won the Toronto Film Critics Association prize for Best Canadian Film in 2014. It has since been released in eleven countries.

Baichwal sits on the board of Swim Drink Fish Canada, and is a member of the Ryerson University School of Image Arts Advisory Council. She has been a Director of the Board of the Toronto International Film Festival since 2016, and is a passionate ambassador of their Share Her Journey campaign, a five-year commitment to increasing participation, skills, and opportunities for women behind and in front of the camera.

Nicolas de Pencier

Nicholas de Pencier is a documentary director, producer and director of photography. Selected credits include Let It Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles (International Emmy), The Holier It Gets (Best Canadian Doc, Hot Docs), The True Meaning of Pictures (Gemini, Best Arts), Hockey Nomad (Gemini, Best Sports), Manufactured Landscapes (TIFF Best Canadian Feature; Genie, Best Doc), and Act of God (Gala Opening Night, Hot Docs). He was the Producer and Director of Photography of Watermark (Special Presentation, TIFF & Berlin, Toronto Film Critics Award, Best Canadian Film, CSA Best Documentary), and Black Code (TIFF 2016), which he also wrote and directed. He was admitted as a full member to the Canadian Society of Cinematographers in 2012, and currently sits on the board of directors of Hot Docs and DOC Toronto.

Baichwal and de Pencier continue to work together, moving into video installation work, producing content for The Tragically Hip’s Fully Completely and Man Machine Poem tours (2014/2016), as well as collaborating with the Rheostatics for Music Inspired by the Group of Seven at the AGO (2015). Their installation, Ice Forms, was part of The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris, also at the AGO. Baichwal and de Pencier recently completed Long Time Running, a feature documentary on The Hip’s 2016 cross-Canada tour, which premiered at TIFF in 2017, and was released by Elevation Pictures, and broadcast by Bell and Netflix.


Anthropocene at the AGO features several innovative artworks that can only be experienced with the use of a mobile app. The app is called AVARA, and can be downloaded for free from the Apple App Store and Google Play.

We recommend that you download the AVARA app onto your smartphone or tablet before you arrive at the AGO. We encourage you to charge your devices fully in advance. The AVARA app brings to life three near-to-life size Augmented Reality (AR) installations and activates film footage in four mural-sized photographs. Should you need assistance in either downloading or using the app, the AGO has staff and volunteers to assist located inside and outside of the exhibition.


people using an AR app in the exhibition


More questions? Read the App FAQ

What are the operating systems required to run the app?

The AVARA app will function on both iOS and Android.

How big is the AVARA app?

The app itself is less than 200MB in size.

Is the AVARA app available in both English & French?


How do I find the app?

The AVARA app can be found by searching AVARA on both the Apple App Store or Google Play. The app is listed under the Entertainment Category in each app store and is rated E for Everyone or +4. 

What’s the best way to download the app?

Once connected to WiFi, the AVARA app can be downloaded for free from either the Apple App Store and Google Play. Free public WiFi is available throughout the AGO.

How do I know the App is ready to use?

Once you have downloaded the App to your device, you will be invited to sign in. You have the option to share your email or sign in as a guest. Personal information is not required to be disclosed to AVARA in order to use the app and experience this part of the exhibition. Once the homepage has opened, the App will automatically begin downloading the various assets. This may take a moment. You will know the App is ready to use, when the Avara logo appears.

Avara app logo image


How do I know when to use the app?

Artworks accessed through the app are identified by the AVARA icon, a red, orange, and blue symbol shaped like a pyramid. Look for the symbol on the wall or on the floor near the relevant artwork.

How do I know where to stand in order to see the works via the app?

The optimal viewing distance varies from artwork to artwork. Visual markers in the exhibition space will signal the best locations from which to see them. 

Can you take a photograph on your phone while using the app?

Yes. The ability to take a photograph is built right into the app. Using the camera icon within the app, you can take photographs of the AR experiences, save them to your local photo album, and/or and share them on social media.

Will using the AVARA app disable other functions on your smartphone or tablet?

No. Use of the app will not interrupt the normal functions of your device.

Where do I go for tech support?

Tech support will be provided by contacting [email protected]. If you have any questions, AGO staff will be onsite to assist.

Do I need to provide personal information to use the app?

No. You may opt to use the app as an anonymous Guest. Otherwise, you can login via Facebook or Google.

If I am going to both exhibitions at the AGO and the NGC, do I need to do anything different regarding the app?

No. The app works the same way for both exhibitions.

Do I need to download anything else after the initial app installation?

Yes. Given the physical size and high quality of the three AR experiences, these must be downloaded separately once the app is installed on your device. The download process is seamlessly integrated into the individual experiences.

Before I download the app, where can I read the Terms and Conditions associated with the app?

The Terms of Service and Privacy Policy are available right upfront as soon as you launch the app.

What is AVARA?

AVARA is a technology company that specializes in the development of high-end Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality experiences. AVARA worked with the Artists to develop the AR experiences that are part of the Exhibition and developed the AR App that allows visitors to view them. For more information about AVARA’s privacy practices, please refer to AVARA’s privacy policy when downloading the app.




Into the Anthropocene: Our Impact on Earth

This podcast series dives deep into the Anthropocene and the many ways we dramatically impact the planet. Host Sarain Fox speaks with guests from around the globe, highlighting Indigenous, Canadian and international perspectives on climate change, geoscience, decolonization, biodiversity, cities and more.


(L to R) Podcast host Sarain Fox with filmmakers Nicholas de Pencier and Jennifer Baichwal, and photographer Edward Burtynsky
(L to R) Podcast host Sarain Fox with filmmakers Nicholas de Pencier and Jennifer Baichwal, and photographer Edward Burtynsky. Image: Art Gallery of Ontario, © 2018.

Anthropocene Past Events

Big Lonely Doug with Harley Rustad
Friday October 19, 7 - 8:30 pm

Join Harley Rustad in conversation with Sarain Fox to launch his new book, Big Lonely Doug: the story of one of Canada's last great trees.

On Water
Saturday October 13, 1-2:30 pm

Join us for a conversation on water sustainability and climate change with filmmaker Lisa Jackson, scholar James Miller, artist Daan

Anthropocene: The Human Epoch
Select dates October 6 - December 30

Dir. Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier, and Edward Burtynsky
2018 | 1 h 27 min

Select dates October 6 - November 24

Dir. Jennifer Baichwal, Edward Burtynsky
2013 | 1 h 32 min

Manufactured Landscapes
Select dates October 6 - November 24

Dir. Jennifer Baichwal
2006 | 1 h 30 min

Art Parties
The October First Thursday: #myspace
Thursday, October 4, 2018

The AGO’s new exhibition, Anthropocene by Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier, looks at human impact on our planet at a previously unregistered scale.

Special Events
Anthropocene Public Opening
Wednesday October 3, 6 - 9 pm

Join us for the public opening of 

Special Events
Nuit Blanche 2018
Saturday September 29, 7 pm - Sunday September 30, 7 am

Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier: Ancient Forest Alliance

Member Exclusive
Members' Preview: Anthropocene
September 25, 26 and 27

AGO Members are invited to join us at our exclusive Member preview for Anthropocene.

Be among the first to experience this major new contemporary art exhibition by world-renowned photographer Edward Burtynsky and multiple awarding-winning filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier.

FREE for Members and their guests.



The AGO’s eco-friendly initiatives

Human impact on the planet is something we are all complicit in to different degrees. Like many museums around the world, the AGO is taking steps to be more environmentally sustainable.

From LED lights, to non-toxic cleaning products, recycling temporary walls for exhibitions, and phasing out plastic water bottles and single use plastics in caféAGO, the AGO has taken a multi-faceted approach to sustainability. We are continually investigating new approaches to minimizing our environmental impact.

The exhibition Anthropocene is bullfrogpowered with 100% green electricity. This means that Bullfrog Power's generators put 100% green power into the grid to match the amount of conventional electricity the event uses, displacing energy from polluting sources. Across Canada, Bullfrog's green electricity comes from a blend of wind and low-impact hydro power sourced from new Canadian renewable energy facilities.

Additional initiatives include:

Non-toxic cleaning products: The primary cleaning product used by the AGO is Clean by Peroxy, which is hydrogen peroxide based, resulting in almost no chemical by-products. 

Lighting efficiency: A vast majority of our lighting is high efficiency LEDs. House lights are scheduled off during unoccupied periods.

Phasing out plastics: Recently, caféAGO eliminated plastic water bottles. In six weeks, this eliminated almost 192 pounds of disposable plastic waste. A water-bottle refill station is now located in caféAGO. A pilot project is now running to test phasing out single-use plastic take out containers.

Water efficiency: Most water fixtures in the AGO (about 90%) are low flow fixtures.

Paper efficiency: The AGO has used green-certified toilet paper for years. This spring we switched to Opticore Toilet Tissue, which is also green-certified. We’re also converting paper towel dispensers to automatic sensor electric hand driers to reduce paper waste (24 units installed to date).

HVAC efficiency: Carbon dioxide sensors are used in select high volume gallery spaces and the shipping dock. They are automated to introduce additional fresh air based on sensor input and provide alarms to Operations & Security. All supply & return fans utilize VFD’s and are programmed to slow down during unoccupied periods.

Insulation efficiency: Windows are triple glazed with UV filtration and curtain wall (insulation) systems are designed to withstand higher internal humidity levels. Light sensors ensure that natural light is prioritized.

Sustainable wood: The AGO’s building materials are mostly sustainable – the wood is mostly 2nd and 3rd growth.

Minimizing exhibition-related waste: The AGO’s Exhibitions and Logistics team makes concentrated effort to reuse or recycle temporary built spaces as much as possible, to decrease the amount of drywall and construction required for each exhibition. We try to reuse our floor plans in creative ways from one exhibition to the next and where possible, create new environments for an exhibitions without having to tear down and rebuild. We also work with local galleries and organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity, to make left over building materials available to them.


Anthropocene is the latest book by Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal, and Nick de Pencier to chronicle the massive and irreversible impact of humans on the Earth - on a geological scale.

In photographs that are both stunning and disconcerting, Burtynsky, Baichwal, and de Pencier document species extinction (the burning of elephant tusks to disrupt the illegal trade of ivory), technofossils (swathes of discarded plastic forming geological layers), and terraforming (mines and industrial agriculture).


Anthropocene catalogue cover



Be the first to find out about AGO exhibitions and events, get the behind-the-scenes scoop and book tickets before it’s too late.
You can unsubscribe at any time.