As mentioned previously, I struggled with the idea of presenting my thesis project as a finished exhibition. I wanted to allow people to think through materials, actions and intentions, with no set outcome other than a re-engagement with waste plastic. Forming a community and starting a conversation about recycling practices and the problems associated with plastic were also a main focus of my research, so I needed to think of something that did these things and still allowed people to have fun with it. I decided early on that workshops would be the best way to go about achieving this.
The first workshop for Polymers in Action took place in OCAD U’s Grad studies building and I’m happy to say that it was attended by a range of students and members of the public. I started off with a short presentation of the issues associated with plastics in the environment and a quick look at Project Vortex associated artists and their socially and educationally focussed projects that address these problems. I encouraged an open dialog and was really pleased that so many people were interested in knowing more about local recycling practices and where our waste materials go after we put them in the blue bins.
After our conversation, we all started making stuff! It turned out to be a really fun event, with many people creating some excellent work from the collected plastic. The images below show the creative approaches that everyone took and conveys a small sense of the atmosphere. You really did have to be there… Next time?
Work in Progress by Geneviève Wallen
Flower Arrangement by Victoria Mohr-Blakeney and Erin Saunders
Plastic Bug by Tom Doughty
Untitled by Cyril Williams
Plastic Spiral by Ana Jofre
Something by Nathan Piquette Miller
Plastic Bug and Flower Arrangement
A huge thank you to everyone who attended and made the session so fun. I am also very grateful to Nathan Piquette Miller for agreeing to photograph the event.
After years of research into various forms of environmental and sustainable art making methods, Polymers in Action: Socially engaged Art and the Environment finally took shape for my thesis project at the Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCAD). I have always been drawn to arts and crafts that reuse discarded objects and materials, restore or enhance their aesthetic appearance and add emotional resonance through a reconnection to materials, but this was different. As I researched art made from recycled/upcaycled/desycled/repurposed materials for my thesis exhibition proposal, I became aware that by only presenting a finished artwork lacked something.
That something was action. By presenting something as finished, it closed a loop for any further engagement with issues that the art was associated with. How do you do something that encourages environmental awareness if your viewers are just looking at something pretty? It didn’t seem like enough. So I started looking at models that use social engagement as a way of forming communities and educating through art making. This action oriented approach appealed to me, because it meant that I got to tap into my craft and teaching skills in a new way and with a new, expanded audience.
Polymers in Action workshops took place at OCAD during January 2015. The level of interest shown by my peers and members of the public was extremely encouraging and has led to more than a few fantastic connections. I’m exited to present the workshops on this site and the future projects that come out of this initial run of sessions. I’ve learned a lot from this experience and I hope that I can share this with as many people as possible over the coming months and years. Thank you for visiting and supporting this project and the artists involved.
*a side note on the webhosting. Green Geeks is listed as one of the greenest web hosts in Canada, with carbon offsetting and other nifty environmental policies. They were a no-brainer for the site development.