Oceanographers and biologists can study the state of our seas and all the processes contained therein, but intercepting the tideline offers a unique resource for artistic interpretation of would-be relics of the future.
Our oceans have become a soup of flotsam; a suspension of orphaned objects temporarily deposited on our coastline twice a day. These plastic fragments are symptomatic of the modern age. Indeed prior to the Second World War and the advent of mass produced plastics, beachcombing the tideline would result in an organic bounty – a smoothed piece of driftwood, or perhaps an unusual shell, not the man-made detritus so common on beaches of the world today.
Through my work I highlight the diversity of plastic objects washing ashore on the British coastline, and how the ubiquity of this material enables us to reinterpret stories of our time. The longevity of plastic allows many discarded items to undergo incredible transatlantic journeys before settling as a disparate collection of relics along the shore. Notwithstanding obvious environmental concerns, intercepting the tideline reveals the pervasiveness of plastic in our lives and in turn, affords insights into our tastes, lifestyles and histories.
Some of the common objects that find their way into the sea are plastic children’s toys. While we have grown up, their adventures have continued beneath the waves. These playthings, scaled down and mass-produced representations of everyday life, offer a miniature version of the world. Much more than small trivialities, they reflect society – the stereotyped roles of men and women, expressed in their clothing and physique made easily recognisable for childhood role-play games. Like the stone tools, pottery and metals that archaeologists use to define human cultures of the past, a layer of plastic will one day signify our own throwaway society. Generations from now, will these plastic miniatures be any different to the precious relics that time elevates to the museum cabinet?
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