PLASTIC: What is it good for?

By Saoirse Nisbett

“Plastic: can’t live with it, can’t live without it.”

This is the motto of the latest exhibition to be presented in Science Gallery Dublin. The exhibition, simply named PLASTIC, has been running since 25 October and will continue into the new year, ending on 2 February. The gallery’s exhibition team, along with some outside advisors and Trinity College alumni, started PLASTIC to highlight not only the perils of the manmade material but also its merits. With the European Union putting in place a 2021 deadline for banning single-use plastic, PLASTIC set out to emphasise the point that plastic as a material exists for a reason and accepted or not, we have come to a stage in our lives where we need plastic to continue working and evolving as we are.

“It’s such a thing at the moment and goes hand-in-hand with the conversation around climate change but everything seemed to be quite negative so with the show we wanted to stress the point that we can’t just rule it out altogether but maybe strip back our use of certain plastics and be smarter about how we use the substance,” says Garvan Corr, Lead Mediator at PLASTIC.

PLASTIC exhibition graphic- Science Gallery Dublin

Throughout the exhibition examples of the various uses, and misuses, of plastic can be seen including uses such as 3D-printed organs, bio-plastics and micro-plastics. Along with the various visual installations, the exhibition team are conducting several different workshops and events surrounding the substance. These events are hosted by the artists who put the show together and some guests who have influence or knowledge in the area of plastic. Some of the more popular and heavily attended events held have been surrounding textiles and cosmetics.

“Our plastic-free cosmetics making event went really well and attracted a lot of people, as well as any event to do with clothes- trying to reduce clothes waste and consumption seems to be big right now in terms of changing our habits,” says Corr.

PLASTIC exhibition- Saoirse Nisbett

Other workshops included making beeswax wraps as an alternative to cling film and making organic, biodegradable plastic from vegetable glycerin and gelatin. The next major workshop will be held this Sunday, 15 December and will see the arrival of Janna Ahrndt, an American artist responsible for designing P@TCH. Ahrndt describes P@TCH as a “FitBit for your ethical performance”, it works using light and social media to monitor the user’s progress in regards to being an active advocate for ethical and environmental change.

P@TCH essentially poses the question, would you be happy with having your daily impact on the environment updated on your social media? Corr says it works to put pressure on armchair activists.

“It’s about figuring out how we can become more than a society that just complains about things- which is what a lot of people, including myself, do.

“I think maybe armchair activism is a good jumping-off point for trying to get people to be actual activists.”

PLASTIC exhibition- Saoirse Nisbett

After its stint in Science Gallery Dublin, PLASTIC will tour Ireland hitting Drogheda, Letterkenny, Galway, Limerick and Wexford. Each different location will bring a unique twist on the individual exhibitions involved, all coming to a head in November 2020 at a one-day plasticity summit which sets out to bring together students, scientists, researchers and artists to evaluate and discuss the future of plastic.

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