Sarah Elizabeth Jones

"Exposing Romanticism – Re-documenting the Role that Beauty Plays in Perpetuating Deforestation"

Section MS9, Keren Kuenberg

Keywords: environment, imperialism, landscape, moving image

This project examines and critiques the collection of paintings and writings found in the book, ‘Burma, Painted & Described’, by Robert George Talbot Kelly (1905), through the media of animation and editing. Kelly’s book includes watercolour paintings of the deforestation process. I have then compiled these paintings into a series of animated, aerial landscapes that will be juxtaposed with factual evidence, portrayed through the form of a letter. Imperial history has consequences on modern deforestation. Today, Myanmar (formerly Burma) produces 70% of the world’s Teak.

The method of romanticised painting creates a source of Imperial propaganda. Therefore, I will not seek to redistribute the images in their original form. The video is a creation of assembled 3D animations in Google Earth Pro, based on the landscapes represented in the paintings. The cartographic media of Google Earth Pro was chosen due to its role in portraying landscapes to the wider public today. In addition, maps are often linked with historical control of Imperial countries such as Burma. This media also allows a bird’s eye view of the landscape which conveys a certain sense of separation from reality that adds to the ideas of romanticism. The series of animated continuous landscapes represent the main chapters of the book. The film is played in a continuous loop to convey the continuous exploitation of the Myanmar landscape.

The animation uses the base algorithm from Google Earth Pro (a modern representation of landscape), to digitally mirror the topography seen in the paintings. Combined with added textures and colours from the paintings, the footage recreates a heightened sense of the beauty. While the animation is playing, narration and subtitles convey the issues behind the painting of Imperialism and deforestation. The information in the subtitles is written in a personal letter from myself, to ‘Mr Kelly’ author of ‘Burma, Painted & Described’, detailing what I have learnt about the role of romanticism and the ‘Resource Curse’. The letter critiques the media of romanticised painting by juxtaposing information from the book ‘Burma The Politics Of Teak – Dissecting a Resource Curse’, by Raymond Bryant against the scenic backdrop of the landscape.