Dominion: Unveiling the Roots of a Crisis
By David Opdyke
The antique postcards in this work pretend to show a more innocent, pre-crisis America. But Capitalism is baked into those old-timey pictures. We live — and have lived from the beginning — in an economic system that places profit above all other values. Externalities like the harmful effects of diesel pollution or the warming of the oceans don’t fit into anyone’s balance sheet so they don’t count.
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If U.S. policy served the people, there would be real costs for polluters and real regulation of public resources. There would be a progressive tax structure, labor protections, a living wage, publicly funded health care and public health, investments in infrastructure, public transit, classification of the internet as a public utility, on and on and on. Topics like these have always been connected in the way I think about the world, but not always in the forefront of my work. It’s only in the last 2-3 years that I decided to dispense with any aesthetic detachment or abstraction when it comes to climate change. I’m all in.
I won’t make claims about representing a movement. I’m just punching a hole in the notion that climate change is a coastal problem, or an issue for ‘someone else’ to worry about. There’s no point in lecturing people to change their behavior so a city 800 miles away won’t flood. But when a farm in the next county fails because of a 10-year drought, when weird insects chew up all the trees in your backyard, climate change becomes less abstract, less distant. It shifts into a local, personal concern, which is what people really care about.
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About the Artist
David Opdyke was born in post-industrial Schenectady, New York in 1969. He makes artwork that explores globalization, consumerism, and civilization’s abusive relationship with the environment. His work is held in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, The Brooklyn Museum of Art, and The Washington Convention Center in DC. In Fall 2020, Phaidon will publish a book based on his large-scale postcard project This Land, including essays by Lawrence Weschler and Maya Wiley. David can be reached on Instagram at @david.opdyke.