DEATH BY PLASTIC (VENICE)Anne-Katrin Spiess On November 7, 2019, my body rested in a casket made of transparent Plexiglas filled with... Read More
DEATH BY PLASTIC (VENICE)
On November 7, 2019, my body
rested in a casket made of transparent Plexiglas filled with fishing nets and single
use plastics. A gondola carried the casket, silently across the canals of
Venice, drawing attention to major causes of plastic pollution locally and
In the summer of 2019, I
performed “Death by Plastic” in Moab, Utah, a small community seasonally
infiltrated by tourists who come to explore the extraordinary pristine
landscapes but leave behind large quantities of refuse the local municipality
needs to manage. I have been creating art in the area for nearly two decades
and have observed the community become incrementally more sustainable. When I arrived
in Moab this year, I discovered that only plastics #1 and #2 are being
recycled, everything else is landfilled. I felt like I had been hit by
lightning and thought I would drop dead there, at the recycling center. After a
sleepless night, I decided to build a clear casket to lay in covered by
plastics 3,4,5,6 and 7, which can no longer be recycled. The work was
photographed on the local landfill, where the plastics would eventually end up.
Venice is facing similar
issues but on a grander scale. Thousands of tourists invade the city daily,
leaving behind tons of waste, much of which is single-use plastic bottles (even
though Venice has amazing tap water, and nearly every square has a fountain
where you can re-fill bottles or drink from the faucet). Part of the problem is
that as consumers we have become incredibly lazy. The larger issue, however, is
that corporations keep producing and wrapping products in plastics which are
often not recyclable. The responsibility to solve this dilemma lies not only on
the consumers but expressly on the corporations producing these products. To
solve this problem, we need to make a significant paradigm shift and be willing
to change our habits - as consumers, as product and packaging designers, and as
Plastic is undeniably a
valuable material, prolonging the lifespan of people and perishables. It is a
democratic compound as it is highly reproducible, non-permeable, lightweight,
and low-cost. But it is also one of the leading causes of pollution on the planet.
My ongoing environmental concerns have led me to research the impact of
plastics in hopes of finding solutions and alternatives to its affects. The
result of this inquiry is "Death by Plastic," my new series of
This project aims to draw
attention to the avalanche of single use plastics, comprising or covering most
of the products we use daily: electronics, housecleaning products, office
supplies, produce, personal care items…and everything else. After completing
their brief task of containing/protecting/wrapping, many of these plastics are
collected for “recycling” but end up in landfills or oceans since local
facilities cannot process them and because certain types of plastics are no
longer profitable to recycle.
For years, many countries were
sending their plastics to China where some types were being recycled and made
into new products, while the less desirable ones were being landfilled. China’s
recent refusal to accept these materials is a wakeup call for countries faced
with not only a glut of plastic but also a lack of infrastructure to process
them. People worldwide are feeling outraged and betrayed by the fact that,
after years of carefully rinsing and sorting our plastics, we discover that
recycling is almost a myth.
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