This year I have become much more interested in art and what it can communicate about various experiences. Topics surrounding cultural identity and migration primarily grabbed my attention, but I also viewed some fascinating installations commenting on plastic pollution and the environment. The cultural contexts of Fabrice Monteiro’s and Alejandro Durán’s installations allowed me to connect with them at a deep and impactful level. It’s really encouraging to see artists challenging communities around the world to take care of their land.
I’ve always considered the negative consequences of plastic pollution and climate change to be a fact, but after visiting my family in Panama last year, it became much more real. I was sad to see that the beach on Isla Grande in Colón had receded due to rising sea levels. Isla Grande was also more polluted than I expected. When I came back to the U.S. these images moved to the back of my mind, but have since resurfaced upon viewing Monteiro and Durán’s work.
Fabrice Monteiro grew up in Benin and brought his transcultural identity into his work. In his series The Prophecy, Monteiro envisions a world rotten with waste. He does this by creating on-location installations made from common plastic waste. The most interesting aspect of his work though, is how he places it in the geographic and cultural context of West African communities.
I first saw his work in the In Their Own Form exhibition — a collection of works discussing Afrofuturism. I found the scale and assembly of his installations really interesting. I feel like his installations can be interpreted as a warning to his community of the future that will come if recycling habits are not changed. Since the entire exhibition surrounded the theme of Afrofuturism (imagining the future of Black people & re-imagining the past, globally), I felt especially drawn to the message he was communicating.
As fascinating as I find Monteiro’s The Prophecy series, I enjoyed Alejandro Durán’s Washed Up photo series even more. He creates his work by collecting plastic pollution from Sian Ka’an, a beach on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. He then organizes it by color and creates aesthetic installations to raise awareness on plastic pollution. In his TED Talk, Durán explains that he’s been doing this since 2010 and since then he’s documented trash from 58 different countries & territories — literally all over the world.
He’s now branched into creating traveling installations. I really appreciate Durán’s perspective on the plastic pollution problem, and I think this unique method of communication will resonate with many people. From the project, educational programs have been created and community support is growing. I hope work like this will raise awareness to how local behaviors can have global consequences.
I’ve always loved going to the beach, with Isla Grande in Panama being one of my favorites. Recycling in Colón is not generally practiced, however after viewing Monteiro’s and Durán’s installations, I feel more compelled to encourage family members to recycle when on Isla Grande. I think the installations’ unique method of communication will encourage people to rethink their consumption habits, preserving the beauty of beaches and maintaining the livelihood of communities worldwide.