This project took place at Zola Villafranca School during the STEM+A (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Arts) fair in collaboration with the beZola program. The fair focused on raising awareness among students and families on the problem of waste production so they can act accordingly to reduce the impact it produces on the environment.
The chosen material for this project was plastic, as it is a non-biodegradable material, for we intended to make a wake-up call in our uncontrolled, excessive and irresponsible use of certain materials that generate a huge amount of waste on the planet. In Kasamakura we are certain that changing the attitude is key and essential as much as possible. For this to happen we have to change our consumption habits, and we believe that involving young people and their families would be a good place to start reflecting on all the disposable objects we use.
Therefore we planned on making an artistic installation to capture the observer’s attention by gathering a large amount of discarded plastic packaging and plastic objects we use and throw away every day. The idea was to make a sea of plastics that you could see from bellow just as the plastic debris floating on the oceans. The maintenance staff installed a recycled plastic net suspended from the ceiling on the covered patio area from which the plastic objects would hang. We made a live performance, building the plastic installation on the day of the fair. All the students and families coming to the event could participate and help us. The students on secondary 3rd and 4th grade (3° y 4° ESO) managed the activity, collecting the recycled plastic packages from their houses, the school cafeteria and other school facilities; and then cleaning and organizing all the objects they had collected.
It was very interesting to see how cleaning, sorting and hanging the plastics items really had an impact in the students. The very process of building the plastic sea made them aware of the impressive amount of these objects that we generate. They felt somehow stressed, almost instinctively, either working with these objects or looking at them hanging. We had so many items that we didn’t have time to set up everything in the almost two hours the activity lasted. And to think this is only part of what it is produced in one school community in a couple of days. It is not hard to feel overwhelmed just starting to think what could be produce in a year, let alone in a global scale.
It is not our intention to deplore the use of plastics, there are many applications for this material that works better than other commonly used materials. Just look around you and you will find lots of plastic objects working perfectly that have been with us for many years. We want to focus on short life plastics, the ones we use only once; and consequently we should think about the amount of items we buy, use and discard in a very short time.
Nowadays we all have heard of the three “R’s” in environmental sustainability: Reduce waste and consumed items, Reuse items that are still useful, and Recycle as much as you can. Some people add a fourth R, Respect your environment. There is a 5th R, that it is beginning to be the most important of them all and that we believe it is essential to start a real change, this is Refuse: do not buy it, do not take it. This is how we begin the change in attitude that we want to spread with these projects.
There are plenty of artists out there working in fascinating projects with this kind of materials, and they pursue similar goals to the ones we were looking for in this project. We encourage you to visit Project Vortex, a collective of artists actively focused on the global problem of plastic pollution.
The inspiration to us for this installation came from artist Tan Zi Xi and her work “Plastic Ocean”, that was on display at the Singapore Art Museum in 2016. She used over 20,000 pieces of discarded plastic items for this work.
If you are interested in the complex matter of plastic waste, you might like to watch Captain Charles Moore TED talk and then check out what they are doing in Algalita. You would also like to take a look at The Ocean Clean Up and the actions they are taking on cleaning the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, you can start on this video. Complete this with Mike Biddle’s talk, who is also called the Garbage Man in the plastic circles, for he has developed an innovative system for plastic recycling. Finally we would like to share a book, Plastic Sea: A Bird’s-Eye View, with shocking images and data on how the oceans are affected by these objects.