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Vanishing Point: an art/science collaboration on ocean plastics


Carnell, S and Cooper, K and Moss, R and Muir Wilson, T and Walsh, P and Auman, HJ and Olivier, F and Virtue, P, Vanishing Point: an art/science collaboration on ocean plastics, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, IMAS exhibition hall (2015) [Other Exhibition]

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The idea for Vanishing Point began many years ago while combing the King Island Coastline – discovering shells, various sea creatures, pieces of broken china and assorted debris from shipwrecks, and of course, plastic.

At first there was intrigue at the origins of these brightly coloured toothbrushes and cigarette lighters, assorted footwear, shampoo and water bottles with descriptions written in various languages, but the intrigue quickly turned to concern as more and more plastic appeared upon these pristine beaches.

In 2012 during a visit to the Shetland Isles I met BBC nature photographer Raymond Besant while showing his documentary ‘The Flying Dustbin’. The documentary features the work of Dr Jan Andries van Franeker and his studies of the Northern Fulmar and the effect of plastic ingestion on their numbers.

It was also there, while watching the puffins battling the North Sea gales and juggling their landings between gusts, I learned that plastic debris was now so wide spread it had been discovered inside the stomachs of the puffin chicks. During a single gale, I watched the waves deposit discarded nets, plastic drums, fishing floats, assorted drink bottles, lighters, and many other items of plastic debris.

While attending Discover Wildlife – an art/science symposium held at CSIRO Canberra in 2014 – it was evident that our ocean’s health is severely at risk as the issue of ocean plastic debris was repeatedly addressed.

This was the catalyst to form the art/science collaborative exhibition – Vanishing Point.

This is an exhibition where ocean science ventures beyond the customary context of laboratories and academic journals and enters into the realm of art.

The participating artists Sophie, Peter, Ron, Toby, myself, and scientists Heidi, Frederique and Patti, all have a long association with the sea and a shared passion for the creatures and plants that depend on it for their continued survival.

The goal for Vanishing Point is not specifically to shock the viewer but rather to encourage connections with the natural world. This connection with our environment is becoming more critical as society increasingly disengages from it.

The works emerge from an inquiry-based pursuit that is common to both art and science, presenting a commentary on the multifaceted nature of both scientific research and artistic expression. Art has the ability to reach in to science, pull out the intriguing and present it to the world in an accessible and thought provoking way.

Vanishing Point focusses on the perceived inherent beauty and value of colourful plastic and its intrinsic appeal to both humans and wildlife alike.

It is an enormous environmental issue for our oceans and for us and demands our attention and action.

Item Details

Item Type:Other Exhibition
Keywords:marine debris, plastic pollution, seabirds, art science collaboration, plastics
Research Division:Environmental Sciences
Research Group:Environmental management
Research Field:Wildlife and habitat management
Objective Division:Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Natural Hazards
Objective Group:Environmental policy, legislation and standards
Objective Field:Environmental education and awareness
UTAS Author:Walsh, P (Mr Peter Walsh)
UTAS Author:Auman, HJ (Dr Heidi Auman)
UTAS Author:Olivier, F (Dr Frederique Olivier)
UTAS Author:Virtue, P (Associate Professor Patti Virtue)
ID Code:104967
Year Published:2015
Deposited By:IMAS Research and Education Centre
Deposited On:2015-12-01
Last Modified:2015-12-01
Downloads:2 View Download Statistics

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