Synthetic Ecologies


A couple of weeks ago we visited Peppercoombe Bay in North Devon, UK. At the entrance to the beech, next to the footpath that brought us here, there  was a large pile of sea-scratched plastic, and so the beach had obviously been cleaned recently by environmentally aware volunteers.  Despite this and their altruistic efforts, amongst the pebbles and boulders,  the beach was still littered with smaller clots and fragments of this human-made material. The images below show just some of this plastic, which I collected over a period of just 20 minutes.

Unlike the majority of the natural material present on the beach, plastic melts and readily turns into a liquid form when exposed to high temperatures, and so when I returned home, armed with a blowtorch and my found plastic, I transformed this material into this gaudy and synthetic marine ecosystem. The different types of plastic respond very differently to the caress of the transformative butane flame, and this informs my use of them in this work. Some plastics form low spreading forms that coat the rocks like Lichens would, whilst other types autogenically  curl up into forms that resemble the clustered eggs of sea creatures,  or generate structures like the anemones and filter feeding organisms found in the sea here.


If I were to pick a pebble from a rock pool here on Peppercoombe Bay Beach, it too would be encrusted,  in a superficially similar way,  with a vast diversity of colour and form. This natural and living ecology however is fragile and could be destroyed by the same materials from which my showy synthetic, and also marine ecology is made.

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