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Piece of Mind

  • 2018 / Recycled plastic  /  Sculpture By The Sea, Bondi, NSW / Currently located at Melbourne University ELC  /  With thanks to New Tec Poly

I have been thinking a lot about plastic, and how this human-made material is now a part of contemporary ecological cycles, it is in our waterways and has entered the food chain. Soft plastics are generally used once and thrown into landfill. I want to explore the possibilities of revaluing waste plastic by reconstituting it into sculptural form, turning this materials negatives (such as its durability and longevity) into positives. By partnering with leaders in the recycling industry I explored methods of transforming used plastics into sculptural form.

We have brought forth multitudes of new materials like plastic, that ecological systems must now deal with, on land, earth and sea. If we think in evolutionary timelines, it is happening at a rapid pace. If we acknowledge that we live in the age of Anthropocene, where human interventions are effecting earths systems, we must also recognise that as the most intelligent animal, the human is placed as custodian of the pivotal partnerships within ecosystems that all living communities occupy. Our waste is a part of the earths system, the cycle of matter and energy that we depend upon.

I was challenged by what the kooky philosopher Slavoj Žižek said, while standing in a pile of trash at a rubbish dump, he said … “a true ecologist must love all this stuff”. I have forced myself to look. It was while living in the Netherlands completing a Masters, studying ‘place’ under Lara Almergui that I followed the local trash trail, visiting waste plants in industrial sites. The experience left me wanting to reconsider the practice of placing long lasting plastics into landfill or burning single use items.

I have long been concerned with the material required to make outdoor sculpture, and struggled with the dilemma of making strong, durable, long lasting sculptural works on a large scale, while being sensitive to ecological cycles. Re-using existing materials, such as the mountains of plastic waste currently going into landfill in alarming quantities, seems like a no brainer!

NewTecPoly have an Australian first extruder that has the ability to recycle co-mingled soft plastics. I have been welcomed into the initial experimental phase of this material research. There are many unknowns and challenges in creating sculptural work with this reconstituted waste plastic, and much experimentation required.

The brain is the central control device that makes us who we are, and it is the size of a human brain that differentiates us from other animals. All animal brains assess their environmental conditions and adjust their behaviours to ensure survival. The human brain is capable of the unique ability of imagination – to imagine something that does not exist, and the cognitive ability to make it happen. This sculptural brain represents a shift in thinking about materiality and ecology.