Littoral: an artist’s response to marine litter

Julia Barton’s latest installation on beach and marine litter, NEO Terra, examines and questions the prevalence of plastic litter in a thought provoking way.

The culmination of four years’ research and engagement through the Littoral Art Project, the installations use less commonly recognisable forms of plastic, namely particles found in the sand and plastiglomerate, collected from the coastlines of the Highlands and Western Isles.

Julia explains her motivation for beginning the Littoral journey:

“This project is my response to my fear of drowning in litter, which I am increasingly experiencing when on beaches around our coast. So often now high-tide lines are marked not by seaweed but by a massive tangle of manmade materials dropped or washed up. Even on beaches which look clean, grains of sand are often laced with acrylic fibres, cigarette ends, plastic granules…….and more.”

During 2016, Julia spent the summer working with Shetland Amenity Trust’s Dunna Chuck Bruck campaign, delivering workshops to local pupils.  Over 200 pupils took part, investigating the types of litter present, the risks it poses and finally, considering ways of tackling it.

Throughout her investigations and the workshops, Julia has been collecting plastiglomerate  – a stone like substance formed of natural debris, such as sand, shells and pebbles, held together by hardened molten plastic.  They are difficult to distinguish from natural beach rocks, and often go un-noticed, though their toxicity and timeline is unknown. 

The main floor exhibit uses thousands of pieces of plastiglomerate, to represent a group of islands, forming the NEO Terra (New Lands) which Julia envisages if we allow plastic to continue to leak into the environment.  A stark animation, Terra Nova, made in collaboration with Shetland film maker JJ Jamieson, will play a key part in the exhibition, illustrating the disturbing nature of these new lands through the exploration of a toy commando.

Julia explains the insidious nature of plastics:

“Plastic in all its forms is weaving itself into the fabric of the earth’s ecosystems and earth itself, silently burying within because little is being done to prevent or manage it. The stark prediction is it will provide a future legacy and record of our human interaction with the earth – an environmental catastrophe in waiting.”

Due to open in Ullapool on the 13th May, running until the 18th June, the exhibition promises a compelling experience, questioning our relationship with plastics.  More information can be found at www.littoralartproject.com  

03 May 2017

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