Part of Lumiere London 2016, an unprecedented light festival that offered a unique vision of London during 4 nights getting the public involved massively as they enjoyed a carless, artistically intervened downtown area.
For this edition, they asked us to carry out a new version of our Plastic Island inside the fountains in Trafalgar Square. We could not say ‘No’ to such a challenge. Intervening such an emblematic place would help us to better spread our message on plastic massive usage.
Although this format had to adapt itself to such a complicated space, the piece’s message was still the same: “to replicate, at a smaller scale, the so-called “eighth continent” made of plastic and garbage which is alarmingly taking over great areas of the Pacific. Governments remain passive before this situation either because they lack interest or because they are incapable to solve this problem. They are allowing this huge mass of about 4 million tons of more or less crushed plastic to shape about 22,200 kilometers (about 13,794 miles) of irregular surface which goes 30 meters (about 98 feet) deep under the water, and is destroying most of the marine wildlife in the area and transforming the ecosystem.”.
We initially thought about just filling the fountains with recycled bottles and have them illuminated by the monument’s light – this was a quick, cheap solution without technical difficulties but, being such an emblematic space, inevitable technical problems came up so we finally decided to build doughnut-shaped self-illuminated round structures that were to hold the bottles inside, making them inaccessible to the public.
They got us 13,000 recycled plastic bottles, many of which had to be thoroughly cleaned as they had been retrieved from trash containers. We also had to put the cap on them so they could float. We were able to fill the first fountain with all this material.
For the second one, we asked visitors to give us their bottles. However, we did not get enough bottles so we gave up the idea of filling it, leaving the structure illuminated but empty. We didn’t mind this too much and even found this emptiness appropriate.
This installation stayed at Trafalgar Square from January 14 to January 17, accompanying Hans Haacke’s sculpture which was at Plinto at the time carefully watched by the police, the square’s visitors and, of course, by Lord Nelson. It was dismantled on Sunday the 17th, being all the elements prepared to be re-used or returned to where they came from – the city’s recycling plants.
We invite you again to watch Charles Moore’s video on this “Eight Plastic Continent”.