Since autumn 2012, .debris. has grown into a collaborative project which is being created as a response to the problems presented by single use plastic. The work reflects the literal problem of plastic in marine environments while offering a symbolic representation of the chemical body burdens carried by wildlife and humans alike. In presenting these issues, we are asked to consider misplaced notions of “disposability”, calling in to question consumer driven waste which has devalued what is in fact a very important material.
Surface Arts London invited the Debris Project to engage communities in northern Thailand during a residency specifically designed for collaborative works at the Rumpueng Community Arts Center during the month of August. The work was shown at the Rumpueng gallery in October, 2015. From there, the installation moved to an exhibit in downtown Chiang Mai by Art Relief International, who continued to develop the project regionally through the remainder of the year. The project traveled to Letterkenny Arts Center in Ireland as part of the Hybrid exchange between Colorado and Irish artists. The following spring the work was presented at TransCultural Exchange’s conference, Expanding Worlds at the University of Boston. A regional collaboration with multiple organizations through the San Francisco Bay Area culminated in an exhibition at the Gallery Route One near the National Seashore. The project was integrated into the summer camp program at the Marine Mammal Center and as an ongoing aspect of the ecological activism promoted by Save Our Shores in Santa Cruz. The integration of the project into regional educational programming took place through the school year with the culmination exhibition taking place with a presentation by Lee Lee at the Monterrey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Education Center in April 2016.
Highlights since the project was installed at the Chateau de la Napoule include an installation for the Mobile Art Exhibition curated by Aslak Aamot Kjaerulff, which was installed at the Aalborg University for the Cosmobilities Network in Copenhagen, Denmark. The project as presented in a mobilities context will be published by Springer Press International and released in 2016. A presentation on the value of stepping away of educational models when building international collaborations was given to the Association of Environmental Studies and Sciences for Welcome to the Anthropocene at Pace University, New York. Ties between chemical body burdens and industrial agriculture were explored on a Slow Food platform during Terra Madre in Turin, Italy. In the Caribbean, we executed a collaborative performance, Message in a Bottle with Aragorn’s workshop on Trellis Bay in the British Virgin Islands. Representations were also gathered from the Timouns Rezistanz in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. Marine debris collected from a beach clean with Sharkastics on Maui have provided hard plastics softened by the open ocean to integrate into youth workshops on the mainland. Explorations on effective community engagement around plastic pollution were shared with the Voluntary Artist Studio of Thimphu, Bhutan. In conjunction with the Biennial of the Americas, Processus included part of the work in an exhibition about the Life of Things. Also in Colorado, the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History hosted a family activity day themed, From the Mountains through the Prairies to the Oceans, that tracked waterways. Installations of student involvement in the project were mounted in Denver by the Denver Aquarium, PlatteForum and the Ricks Center for Gifted Children at the University of Denver. In New Mexico, the river organization, Amigos Bravos, hosted a .debris. presentation at the Santa Fe Community Foundation as part of their Water Matters series, and the Field Institute of Taos integrated it as part of their curriculum to explore human impacts on river ecologies. The project has been published in articles by the United Nations Environment Programme, Bay Nature Magazine, RISDxyz and as an interview on Santa Fe Radio Café.
Essentially this was developed as a flexible tool to engage people creatively around issues surrounding plastic pollution. The overall project gained strength through gathering a wide range of geographical representations of the ecological impacts of plastic. It is used as a hands on activity to incorporate into existing programs or curricula, as well as a platform to share effective ways of addressing the problems at hand.