Discarded plastic takes on a new life at Poynter Park in St. Petersburg, Florida, where aAnew artwork created by researchers, community leaders, and artists (including Atlanta-based artists Dena Light, Mike Wsol, and Amandine Drouet) has been unveiled. Titled Current Collections, the monumental sculpture—40 feet across and 38 feet high—depicts five branching steel arms covered with multicolored translucent plastic skin, made from debris that was picked up by volunteers along waterways near St. Petersburg. The work itself represents an eddy or ocean gyre. One of the perceptual intentions of the work is that viewers experience a simulation of twirling plastic when they walk under it, as if they were caught below a whirlpool of rubbish.
Light, Wsol, and Drouet make up the Atlanta art and science collective Embodied Energy Studio, which was established with the aim to create public art that encourages dialogue and a hands-on approach to matters of social and environmental concern. The impetus for Current Collections, the collective’s first project, came from Light, who, in 2013, while snorkeling in the Indonesian archipelagos, realized that she was swimming under a layer of plastic debris floating on the water’s surface.
In addition to playing a crucial role in the Clean-Community-Clean-Coast youth and community educational program (which is overseen by the College of Marine Science at the University of South Florida), EES also initiated engagements with youth in the Atlanta area. For instance, in July of this past year, the collective led a workshop at the East Atlanta Kids Club, where they made plastic panels that were eventually incorporated into Current Collections by recycling trash, like tin foil, candy wrappers, and fishing lines, that was collected from coastal waterways.
The intention of Current Collections is to encourage people to think about how seemingly small actions, like leaving an empty soda can on the beach, can contribute to already major environmental problems.
The sculpture will make a trip to Atlanta for the 2015 Earth Day celebration (April 22) and will return to Poynter Park for the 2015 St. Petersburg Science Festival.
Jacquelyn O’Callaghan received an MFA in art criticism and writing from the School of Visual Arts in New York and is BURNAWAY’s editorial intern.