Bloom is made from over 12,000 plastic lids zip-tied together to form over sixty organic shapes. The pieces were floated together on the Derwent River at the Glenorchy Arts and Sculpture Park (GASP) for the Flotilla project as part of the biennial Glenorchy Works Festival in 2012.
The plastic tops used are typically discarded without a thought, end up in landfill, and are rarely recycled. But because they float they also have a great chance of circulating in waterways if discarded inappropriately. Placing these plastic tops in a seemingly precarious position in the natural environment created an uneasy tension provoking conversation and interest about how the way we live and consume impacts on the local environment. Working with the inherent shape and colours of the plastic tops created a bloom effect mimicking the natural environment in which it was placed.
The new GASP boardwalk is situated on the Derwent River, and has given many people a new perspective on the river environment, allowing them to consider what it is that is coming into the river from our built environment. However, the foreshore is not a natural state as such, with much of the original shoreline being reclaimed, and the boardwalk dissecting water and land. So while the plastic tops seem out of place in 'nature', they create a playful interruption between the natural and built environments.
There is a great amount of interest in plastic pollution and particularly the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. However, we can easily overlook that much of the plastic that ends up in the ocean started out in a waterway after being discarded inappropriately within the built environment. Plastic is now a much-maligned material accumulating around us, and although it originates from petro-chemicals derived from oiled formed from living matter buried millions of years ago, it does not break down into the environment like scientists once believed it would.
Although plastic lids are recyclable, they rarely are, and apart from slipping into waterways, most end up buried in landfill. Yet a tonne of plastic is a tonne of plastic. Collected and recycled they can still contribute to reducing the amount of plastic needing to be derived from petrochemicals. Industrialized societies continue to create more and more elusive categories for marketing 'new' products each year, only matched it seems by the ever increasing categories of 'rubbish'. Rubbish is as rubbish does. Its everywhere.
The artwork is fundamentally a re-presentation of post-consumer materials, but it is certainly created with intention and attention to an art-form; it isn’t simply a pile of rubbish tipped into the river. Although the latter could create intense reactions and conversations about consumerism and the environment, it could also be divisive and inaccessible. Creating an aesthetically pleasing and playful artwork, however, can be interesting and accessible, allowing an opportunity to contemplate issues that are in fact deadly serious.
This wall created a dynamic solution that met the needs of a client, reused an on-site waste stream, and saved a load of materials and money. The Westend Pumphouse on Murray St, Hobart, had been undergoing a refurbishment since the beginning of the 2012, and one of the requirements was a wall that would screen the entrance to the toilets from the new restaurant area, but still allowing light to flow through the building.
With the café/restaurant using more than fifty bottles a day, a wall created from milk bottles turned out to be the ideal solution. In the end, the cost of the metal framework and the locally manufactured brackets and plates, were less than ten-percent of using traditional materials. The fact that the bottles were reused on site really adds to the character of the work. If any bottles are damaged they can simply be replaced on-site.
Not only can the bottles easily be replaced, they can also easily be reconfigured in different patterns, and by deleting bottles, shapes, figures, letters and numerals can be created from negative space. The fact that the wall can be reconfigured allows ongoing collaboration, yet without compromising the integrity and originality of the design. Staff at the Westend Pumphouse regularly reconfigure the wall, so it could well be different each time you visit.
Just think how many cafés and restaurants throughout Hobart, Australia and the world, that are using single-use plastic containers to provide milk for customers’ coffees. It only took a couple of months to collect the two-thousand, two hundred and eighty milk bottles to fill this wall, from just one café. So you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out that there are a lot of bottles being landfilled everyday around the world.
What really matters is seeing it. You will be amazed at the way the translucent plastic is transformed by natural and artificial light to create a constantly changing array of subtle hues and tones. The way you don’t encounter the full magnitude of the wall until you are well inside the building is quite magical. The difference from one side of the wall to the other is also interesting, something you really need to experience first hand.
The Westend Pumphouse is on 105 Murray Street, Hobart, and is open 7 days.