Plastic Fantastic…… in memoriam
As I sit typing, in a brand new Premier Inn, on the eve of my Art in Manufacturing residency in Blackburn I can’t help but think of the huge changes witnessed by Queen Victoria during her reign in terms of the 1st Industrial Revolution. Her statue is situated just metres away from the entrance to the hotel and it feels like she’s still surveying the prospects of a town where twice the national average of people are employed in the manufacturing industry. It’s a population facing massive change, on the verge of the 4th Industrial Revolution, where a type of innovate-or-die mentality may soon alter the face of factory-based creation, employment and technology.
It’s against this backdrop that I’m working with MGS Technical Plastics as a project partner heading towards the first ever National Festival of Making (Sat 6 – Sun 7 May 2017). The Art in Manufacturing residency offers an unparalleled opportunity to engage with both heritage, and heritage stories, whilst referencing ‘the future’ in terms of the technology driving the success of the Northern Powerhouse and Blackburn’s contribution to its prosperity.
Post Brexit, facing Climate Change, we find ourselves in incredibly fascinating, complex and unique times in terms of the potential behind our ingenuity regarding industrial processes. Environmentally, echoes abound; we must adapt-or-die in terms of the impacts our actions are having upon the planet. Physical, digital and biological worlds are becoming increasingly co-dependant. Stresses are innately present in a landscape where it’s estimated that during 2015 alone 8 million metric tons of plastic waste entered the oceans from land-based actions.
It is perhaps embedded in this latter statement that the urgency of my practice, and personal responses, create the most pressing questions concerning how the production of plastic can offer solutions to the pollution it creates. I’m keen to explore such acute questions during my residency with MGS Plastics because whilst being a production partner to some of the worlds leading brands they also embody a company ethos of being ‘passionate about reducing their environmental impact and committed to recycling at every opportunity.’ This, to me, introduces some fascinating juxtapositions in terms of the provenance of a material that continues to infiltrate our ecosystems in planned and unexpected ways.
I hope that the residency can develop an embedded series of conversations that references these points in ‘real-time’ whilst raising engaging questions and solutions as well as creating a new Artists Moving Image work and installation.
In term of practice…
I began working with plastic waste in 2007 when I acquired 7500 rejected ice-cream containers for my graduation show. What followed were installations that contained 45,000 plastic bags, 132,000 knives and forks and 3.6 tonnes of post-consumer plastic. Yet my relationship with plastic began as a child as I spent my youth surrounded by the futuristic potential of the material as a ‘wonder substance’ due to the nature of my fathers profession:
Roy Woolston was a senior sales rep within the injection moulding industry in the West Midlands for his entire career and the language of manufacture seems as common to me as nursery rhymes. Up until now one thing has been missing from my story: the opportunity to work, in an embedded way, with industrial leaders within the plastics industry to raise questions regarding globalised sustainability and localised solutions. The opportunity to close-the-loop via arts-based collaborative enquiry.
So tomorrow I begin that journey and I can only say, from the bottom of my heart, that I wish my dear dad was still alive to witness and contribute to my conversations.
This one’s for you Roy xxxxxxxxxxx