Not a book, but totally spurred by our reading on plastic this month, we took a trip to see the exhibition Plasticology at The Goods Shed in Claremont, Perth. Backgrounding this exhibition is the fact that Australia’s plastic problem has long been outsourced to other countries. Only a small portion of plastic waste is recycled here; in 2018, $2.8 billion was spent exporting 4.5 million tons of the country’s waste, mostly to Vietnam, Indonesia and China.
This timely show, featuring artists from Indonesia, Hong Kong and Taiwan, brings together both dreamy and confronting visions of plastic. There are glowing rotating pieces made from hundreds of little plastic objects by Angela Yuen (Hong Kong) to the imposing ultra 3D mask, sculptures and hangings constructed by Eko Nugroho from Java. Immediately intriguing and unsettling to the kids, Nugroho has transformed plastic into ceremonial-looking pieces, rich with shapes made from pipes, nozzles, lids. They call to mind both colourful alien lifeforms and the tangles of nature.
Central in the space is the installation Remnant by Taiwanese Australian artist Yu Fang Chi, with a shimmering drift of floating bags (made from translucent synthetic fabric sourced from Taiwan’s garment industry.) “Why aren’t they just ordinary plastic bags?” my son asked, gazing through them. No answers, but questions are always good.
We probably spent longest hypnotized by and peering into Yuen’s two sculptures The Stranger III and The Puzzle I. It was compelling to identify all the tiny plastic elements – toy soldiers, building blocks, water pistols, cars, jewels, curlers, fake flowers, stencil rulers which could have been tipped from a toy box/ pencil case anywhere on the planet – all positioned exactly to cast coloured shadows of the Hong Kong skyline. Magical.
Plasticology runs for just a few more days at The Goods Shed, until 31st July.