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Category: Nature

Alejandro Duran: Washed Up: Transforming a Trashed Landscape

Artist’s Statement:

Washed Up is an environmental installation and photography project that transforms the international garbage washing ashore on Mexico’s Caribbean coast into beautiful, yet disquieting, works.

The project addresses the issue of plastic pollution making its way across the ocean and onto the shores of Sian Ka’an, Mexico’s largest federally-protected reserve. I have identified plastic waste from fifty nations on six continents, all found along a single stretch of coastline. I collect this international debris and use it to create color-based, site-specific installations. Conflating the hand of man and nature, at times I distribute the objects the way the waves would; at other times, the plastic takes on the shape of algae, roots, rivers, or fruit, reflecting the infiltration of plastics into the natural environment.

The resulting photo series depicts a new form of colonization by consumerism, where even undeveloped land is not safe from the far-reaching impact of our disposable culture. Although inspired by the work of Andy Goldsworthy and Robert Smithson, Washed Up speaks to the environmental concerns of our time and its vast quantity of discarded materials. The alchemy of Washed Up lies not only in transforming a trashed landscape, but in the project’s potential to raise awareness and change our relationship to consumption and waste.

As part of my work, I am planning to create an arts and education program for the children of Punta Allen, the local community in Mexico where I have spent the past 5 years working on this project. We will explore the issue by organizing upcycling lessons, plastic pollution research, and interactive activities accompanied by a sculpture garden with installation work from the Washed Up series. Activism through art and education is an integral part of the Washed Up project and is my way to raise awareness regarding this global scourge.

In conjunction with that, I recently formed an alliance with the founders of 5 Gyres, who participated in a panel discussion I helped organize during my recent exhibition at Hunter College. 5 Gyres recently published the first global estimates of plastic in our oceans in the scientific journal, PlosOne. 

The issue of plastic pollution in our oceans is finally coming to the fore as we realize that the health of our oceans is in danger. Through this project I intend to spread the message about the dangers of plastic pollution in a way that is engaging and beautiful while also eye-opening.

Artist’s Bio: