This photograph offers an overview of my site that visualises the Anthropocene. I am standing on the stage looking out over the square. The wall behind me in this photograph says in multiple languages, “pride in our past, faith in our future.” What it interesting about modern spaces, specifically the square is that space itself is directing – it tells you what to do and how to behave during certain events. This space offers movies in the park, skating, a heated outdoor patio, food trucks, artisan markets, festivals, yoga, and sports games. But all these events are set up in a directional way – you skate in a circle, you walk around in the shape of a square when viewing the artisan markets and food vendors and the entire crowd faces the stage during a movie or performance. The modified human behaviour when in this space doesn’t run congruent with the behaviours of nature. In other words, it’s unnatural. Or rather, it’s a simulation of behaving with nature in an ideal way. More importantly, it sheds light to the absent-mindedness of society – we follow social cues without questioning them, its human nature. If everyone was turned away from the stage during a performance, chances are that someone just entering the square would join in with everyone and face the opposite way of the performance. Furthermore, it suggests absent-mindedness towards the implications that this space has on the environment. It has been postured to be perceived as an ideal to society – a beautiful space that brings the community together (Figure IX. Brittany Semplonius, The Past Constructs, the Present Instructs, 2019, photograph, Mississauga, Ontario).

The social landscape of the square is stimulated by the demand of population growth in the surrounding area. The square is the beginning of developing downtown core (alongside the nearby mall, college, cinema, and restaurants). Not only is this landscape driven by convenience, leisure and entertainment value, but it is driven by aesthetics. It’s critical to observe the aesthetics within and surrounding the square as sources for the Anthropocene as an epoch coined to the industrial revolution. For example, the new series of Condos going up on Burnhamthorpe, M-City Condos, is said to complete the Mississauga skyline (filling a gap). In this sense, the use of industrialisation is not only for function but also for aesthetics; to create a skyline that is iconic and to make the square more of a spectacle. More so, the presence of a square indicates a developing city – it solidifies the relationship of supply and demand. Likewise, it visually shows the distancing of humans from nature – which explains why the square adds in aspects of nature, to try and lessen the divide (Figure IV. Brittany Semplonius, The Great Divide, 2019, photograph, Mississauga, Ontario).

The site that I chose for my photographic essay is Celebration Square, Mississauga Ontario. My site pertains to Anthropocene through the manufacturing of land to create a social urban landscape. The definition of Anthropocene, as I explore, runs parallel with the outlook of Jussi Parikka, which is that “the Anthropocene is a way to demonstrate that geology does not refer exclusively to the ground under our feet. It is constitutive of social and technological relations as environmental and ecological realities.”[1] Thus, the Anthropocene is an interconnection of communication, innovation, and land. This interrelation creates a culture of leisure and industry that not only shapes who we are but also shapes the land around us and how we perceive and interact with nature. Because of this, Celebration Square becomes essential to the study of Anthropocene – detaching society from nature and immersing them in an entertainment culture that stimulates a higher need for consumption, connectivity, and industrialisation; it is cyclical (see fig. 2). Consequently, this space does not facilitate nature and wildlife. The fountain/ water area is man-made and consumes energy, the grass is an artificial turf of synthetic fibres and the animals are pieces of sculpture (see fig. 1). Although the visuality of Celebration Square looks like it could be a micro green-zone (because of the large field and water area), it is more of a simulacrum of nature. Taking into consideration Kevin Loughran’s writing on Imbricated Spaces we can consider a different perspective of looking at the synthesized integration of nature. When analysing the creation of ‘city-nature,’ as Loughran coins, he says, “initial efforts at park creation in Western cities mirrored early sociologists’ ontological separation of “city” and “nature”; Urban parks were to be a sanctuary, an oasis of greenery amid the purportedly deleterious conditions of the industrial city.”[2] Loughran’s concept of urban parks as an idealised construction of nature runs parallel to the manufacturing of Celebration Square’s nature– the grass is perfectly cut, the water is clean and the birds are where they should be. An important detail of Loughran’s discussion of ‘city-nature’ spaces is that he uses the word ‘deleterious’ to describe the conditions of the city and the word ‘oasis’ to describe the greenery. In the landscape of Celebration Square, both elements are present – the harsh environmental conditions from industrialisation that do not support thriving greenery/ animal life and the elements of nature that remain picturesque. Thus, it is no wonder that the elements of nature within this space are a façade for green pastures because it’s not a sustainable environment for greenery (amongst generators, vendor trucks, car shows, concerts, and mass populations trampling land). However, what is seen when looking at this manufactured landscape is a family-friendly/ environmentally friendly space that brings the community together by creating cultural identity. This is what attracted me to photograph this site – how easily it can be mistaken for an environmentally positive space when really it is a site contributing to the epoch of Anthropocene and the rise of capitalism through entertainment and leisure when previously the land was sectioned off for farming. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

This image of City Hall, constructed in 1987, portrays a romanticised/idealised tribute to the history within Mississauga – particularly from this angle. The combination of shapes that comprise City Hall symbolises a barn: the Silo is the Cylindrical shaped building, the Windmill is the building with the clock, the barn is the triangle shaped roof on the left side of the image, and the farmhouse is the top right building with the offices. Is this image any different from the metal birds from fig I or the field of synthetic turf? This site of the Anthropocene resembles aspects of nature and uses them to create a connection between people and their environment, but it does so in very artificial ways. It has been said by Timothy Hodgetts in a study of connectivity with nature that by “simply getting people to visit or live near to (spatially disconnected) “nature” will ignite an emotional connection.”[1] Perhaps the reference to nature within this social manufactured landscape is a stipulation to be more environmentally empathetic - to connect people within the city to the greater geological condition. But perhaps the grass is greener on the other side of the city because it isn’t plastic (Figure X. Brittany Semplonius, A Moment to Remember, 2019, photograph, Mississauga, Ontario). [1] Timothy Hodgetts, 2018. "Connectivity as a Multiple: In, with and as “nature”." Area 50 (1): 85.​​​​​​​

The modern farm. I wanted this picture to appear idealised yet peculiar. In a sense it is out of place – it’s selling chicken on wheels. It's heavily divergent from the traditional thinking of chickens on the farm or even visiting a restaurant that prepares quality chicken. This picture illustrates chicken as being fast food. Not only does this food truck use generators for power but it commodifies chicken – two contributing factors to the human epoch. The use of fossil fuels and consumption of animals natural to the land not only shows geological resources as manufacturing modern cityscapes but also creates a new eco-system of meaning and use of resources. Like the buildings in the surrounding area, this food truck exists because of the earth. It is essential in the visuality of the Anthropocene because this food truck (essential to monthly events in the square) always takes from the earth but never replenishes. Through an environmental lens, all this truck does is create pollution and waste, to satisfy consumer desires (not needs) (Figure VII. Brittany Semplonius, Contemporary Chicken, 2019, photograph, Mississauga, Ontario). 

These metal gates are used to section off areas for events within the square. The barriers indicate where people can and cannot go. According to Ferdinand Saussure and his theory of semiotics, these metal objects become the signified – a mental concept that arbitrarily instructs people how to behave. This picture not only shows how the earth is used to monitor human behaviour but also shows how earth constructs the confines of social space within an urban landscape. Everything behind the scenes of entertainment such as lights, cameras, stage, security, and sound, is all comprised of earth material. This image shows the Anthropocene as created through mass production of earth material; the destruction of the earth to produce a lifestyle (Figure III. Brittany Semplonius, Entertainment District, 2019, photograph, Mississauga, Ontario).

Over the Christmas season, Christmas trees were used to decorate the square for holiday events and outdoor skating. The appearance of pine trees covered in lights offered festive energy that lured in consumers. Now that the holiday season is over, the trees are no longer needed. This picture visualises the damage that consumerism has on nature while exemplifying how nature is used to idealise a modern space. If it weren’t for the need of human experience and connection, there wouldn’t be the need for innovative spaces that bring people together and likewise, there wouldn’t be the need to construct temporary landscapes that remove nature from its natural habitat for decoration. This image demonstrates that the visuality of the Anthropocene is more than geological, but also intrinsic to social relations (figure II. Brittany Semplonius, New Season, New Decoration, 2019, photograph, Mississauga, Ontario).

This photograph shows metal birds scattered about the concrete beds of trees and plants. There were more metal birds placed around a large concrete sculpture and on a few concrete benches. Larger birds were placed on the roof of the building nearby. In analysing the Anthropocene, it is important to not only notice the metal animal sculptures but also the large concrete holdings for the re-planted trees and flowers. The solid objects directly show how humans have extracted natural resources form the earth to manufacture an idealised social landscape for the aesthetic purpose (figure I. Brittany Semplonius, Simulacrum, 2019, photograph, Mississauga, Ontario).

Industrialisation, urbanisation, capitalism, consumerism and commodities contribute to the construction of identity. Who we are is said to be about what we have, where we live and what we do. This picture encapsulates all that the square offers. Notice the view that the square offers of the skyline (see fig. IV), the remnants of a social event (observed by the gates discussed in fig. III), accessibility to nearby work spaces and modern idealised living spaces and the connectivity offered via online databases (observed on the ad screen)? All these aspects contribute to a sense of a modern community – notice the advertisement: “Building Downtown Together.” Likewise, it also screams how current this social space is: modern buildings, modern products and the modern high definition screen. Even the construction nearby contributes to the excitement attached to newness/innovation/ design and creates a wonderment towards future activities. Additionally, the more excess space has, for example, the large HD screen for ads and the installation in the figure below, the more sense of a spectacle space is. This image offers the visuality of a manufactured landscape that is being created – even the construction of the manufactured landscape is in and of itself, its own manufactured landscape (Figure V. Brittany Semplonius, Modern Mind, 2019, photograph, Mississauga, Ontario).

I captured the pattern of this roofing to dramatize the quantity of material used for the superfluous installation. The roof does not create shade on sunny days or create shelter from rain – it merely exists. This concept links to figure IV which fulfills the need for aesthetics within an urban landscape. This installation creates an element of industrial grandeur that contributes to the visuality of the Anthropocene (Figure VI. Brittany Semplonius, The Sky is the Industrial Limit, 2019, photograph, Mississauga, Ontario).

I captured the pattern of this roofing to dramatize the quantity of material used for the superfluous installation. The roof does not create shade on sunny days or create shelter from rain – it merely exists. This concept links to figure IV which fulfills the need for aesthetics within an urban landscape. This installation creates an element of industrial grandeur that contributes to the visuality of the Anthropocene (Figure VI. Brittany Semplonius, The Sky is the Industrial Limit, 2019, photograph, Mississauga, Ontario).

Like fig. VI, this image offers a sense of grandeur which situates the social space as being a spectacle of the Anthropocene – beautifying the use of geological resources that, by taking them, causes harm to the environment. These manufactured landscapes disconnect the viewer from the extraction of resources and connect them to the beauty and wonders of human ability. I purposely darkened the focal point of the image to increase its visual aspect of endlessness (Figure VIII. Brittany Semplonius, Impeding Darkness, 2019, photograph, Mississauga, Ontario).

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