It is essential but polluting. It saves lives, yet it chokes our oceans. It’s cheap to create but expensive to dispose of. It can last forever, but is often used only once. PLASTIC has changed our daily lives and our environment more than any other material. We can’t live without it. But living with it might not be an option for much longer.
Plastic is not just widespread: it it literally omnipresent. It’s found in all the usual places: electronic devices, motor vehicles, buildings, bathtubs, shoes and chairs. Our hospitals, airports, power plants and server farms are unimaginable without plastic. But new research is turning up plastic waste in unexpected places, and in frightening quantities. From giant Pacific garbage gyres to Antarctic ice peppered with microplastics, from beehives to organic meat, plastic seems to be everywhere we look for it. What will be the long-term effects of this relatively new but incredibly long-lasting substance?
To stop using plastic is not an option. As an aesthetic material for artists and designers it is unparalleled, and its use has revolutionised industrial design. More essentially, modern medicine relies on plastic so heavily that even the most basic medical procedures would be unimaginable without plastics. Plastics have great power, and with great power comes great responsibility.
What does the future hold? There may be cause for cautious optimism. Plastics are a global (but relatively recent) problem, meaning our environment and our culture has plasticity — we can mould and change it, both intentionally and unintentionally. Material scientists are investigating plastic alternatives, manufacturing and recycling processes are rapidly evolving, and artists and designers are developing new ways to modify our single-use consumer culture. The unsustainability of our relationship with plastic is obvious, and the clock is ticking. Can we utilise this wonderful, terrible material, and can we fundamentally change our approach to living with PLASTIC?
POTENTIAL TOPICS AND DIRECTIONS:
- Material Science / Textiles / Bioplastics+Biopolymers
- Global environmental inequity / Endocrine disruptors / Microplastics
- Disposal / Recycling / Biodegradation / Life Cycle Analysis
- Innovative Uses of Plastics, Especially Medical Devices / Petrochemical Alternatives
- Plastics/Polymers in Art
- Policy solutions / Collective vs Individual Action / Industry reform
- Cultures of Reuse, Modification and Repair / Slow Design / Design Solutions to Single-use Culture
- Plastics Proliferation (e.g. ocean gyres, trophic levels, freshwater treatment, etc) / Beach Cleanups
- Post-Oil Economies & Cultures / Re-Use of Oil Infrastructure / New Trading Dynamics + Global Material Flows
Proposals may be new or existing works, and will be funded up to a maximum budget of €2000, which should include all artist fees, VAT, materials, equipment, shipping, travel etc. Please note that these are maximum amounts and we enthusiastically welcome proposals that come in below the maximum budget. We are happy to write letters of support for applicants seeking funding from elsewhere.
Running alongside the open call for PLASTIC is Science Gallery Melbourne's DISPOSABLE. Works can be submitted to both open calls.