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RETHINK - Contemporary Art and Climate Change

  • Posted by on December 10, 2009 in Art
  • I recently met Beth Terry, the author of a great blog on plastic pollution called Fake Plastic Fish (the definitive resource on our culture’s obsession with plastics) at a very sobering event – the return from an expedition to Midway Island with photographer Chris Jordan, who traveled there with a film crew to document the “plastic graveyard.”

    Midway is literally “midway” from everything. It is the farthest island from any occupied land mass and you would think it would be relatively free from human-made objects. As it turns out, even this remote little island is spilling over with tons and tons of plastics (some dating back to the 60’s) carried to its shores from the nearby Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

    As we learn more and more about the devastating impacts of plastic waste on our oceans -- in particular the recent discovery that fish and marine mammals often mistake the broken down pieces of brightly colored plastic with food – it is hard not to get terribly depressed about the state of our oceans and the seemingly impossible cleanup task that lies ahead for future generations.

    Fortunately Beth manages to maintain a great sense of humor despite her sobering subject matter, and she recently highlighted an artist in her blog named David Edgar who has developed a fun and ingenious way to take plastics out of the waste stream while making beautiful works of pop art that comment on the severity of the plastics problem.

    Influenced by Andy Warhol’s colorful brand refabrications and American folk art, Edgar slices, dices, sculpts and shreds the most common of plastic objects – detergent jugs, plastic drink bottles, old toys – transforming the mostly unrecyclable plastics into colorful sculptures.

    Edgar explains the evolution of his Plastiquarium:

    The Plastiquarium is immersed in mystery. Modern myth suggests that a century of increasing phosphate levels in Earth's marine environment caused new, synthetic life forms to emerge. As recyclable HDPE plastic containers spread concentrates of consumer product pollutants, the Plastiquarium creatures evolved in the image of their packaging forbearers.

    There are dozens of fish, eels and other marine creatures available at the Plastiquarium online gallery.

    - Karl Burkart


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