In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles away from land, and humans, there is enormous floating reminder of the indelible mark we leave from afar. Called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the Plastic Vortex and the world’s largest landfill, the North Pacific Gyre is a combination of currents and carelessness that makes up what some suggest is a wasteland filled with plastic. Rife with fantastic sounding aquatic traps such as “ghost nets,” it is suggested that its collection is of such a scale that, as of yet, no one has been able to calculate its true size.
In a song by local Park Slope musicians Whale Belly, there is an interesting lyric “I know what I hate, I just don’t know why.”
The upcoming show Whale Belly is slated to perform in, Post Plastic Project at Littlefield in Brooklyn, plans to remedy just such ignorance through a feast of artists, musicians and comedians curated to raise money, and awareness for the environmental organization, Project Kaisei.
Discovered by chance in 1997 by oceanographer Charles Moore, the North Pacific Gyre is Project Kaisei’s main focus. Kaisei itself began in late 2008 when co-founders, Doug Woodring, George Orbelian, and Mary T. Crowley, found a need to bring attention and research to the growing problem of plastic pollution. In 2009 Kaisei launched its brigantine vessel (the namesake of Kaisei, meaning “Ocean Planet”) and an oceanography vessel called “New Horizon,” donated from partnering organization Scripps Institute of Oceanography. The mission was to collect and calculate data on the amount, type, and breakdown rates of plastic litter that is trapped in the middle of the ocean.
Some findings maintain that certain types of plastic are breaking down at rates much faster than imagined. Most recently the rate was a year or less for some materials to completely disintegrate and penetrate waters and wildlife, raising concerns about toxin levels in fish and other saltwater animals. Utilizing a variety of technological outlets to get their message across, Team Kaisei reports directly from the boat with updates on their findings, and even has a voyage tracker via Google Earth that allows you pinpoint the location, and view interactive message from crew members.
When I asked Lindsay Bourget, one of the curators of the Post Plastic Project, “Why Kaisei?” she answered directly, “I started this project because I wanted to find someone to donate to that made the most sense and they [Project Kaisei] made the most sense to me, because their number one goal is to capture the plastic vortex and that’s exactly what I was most concerned about, so it seemed like a natural fit.” Some debate remains about the severity and size of the litter in the North Pacific Gyre, along with concerns about disturbing wildlife in the effort to collect, as well as the idea that full collection of all the plastic is a Sisyphean task. Nevertheless when I asked Lindsay about her concern for the validity of such projects in the face these doubts as well as major global disasters (particularly oil spills) she acknowledged “it can be really discouraging, but then you think there’s only one way to really start making a change.”
Co-curator Laina Karavani adds, “Sometimes artists and musicians are the only one’s that people really listen to and can help illicit change, and that’s what this is all about, moving towards that change.”
Post Plastic Project will demonstrate by example, using soy ink, and semi-recycled paper in their printing materials through Long Island City based, ColorCoded, and party materials (cups, plates, etc) provided by SustyParty, a New York based company that provides a line of eco-friendly, biodegradable party products made from corn oil, tapioca starch and other recycled materials, along with a bin to collect and ensure compost.
The artists and musicians are pooled from both Lindsay and Laina’s art and design background. Lindsay currently works in packing and architectural design, and went to Colorado Institute of Art, while Laina is photographer originally from New Jersey. Laina moved to San Francisco to attend the Art Academy of San Francisco, and found herself in an environment of high sustainability expectations. Drawing from this experience and from a childhood where recycling was the norm, Laina and Lindsay were eventually introduced by a professor who thought they might be a good match (their birthdays are only two days apart.) As the project grew larger both realized that this kind of grassroots organization for a less dire cause might be exactly what people were looking for.
The show is a powerhouse in itself with fifteen artists, four bands, and two MC’s. Mostly local fare, the artists were friends of or approached directly by Lindsay and Laina, and much to their surprise, nearly all said yes. With the increase of sustainable forms of living becoming the norm in Brooklyn it was easy to see that Lindsay and Laina’s project provided the perfect outlet for supporters looking for a more manageable idea of altruism.
The line up for music is strong and ranges from the pipes of a classically trained opera singer (singing in a rock band of course) Little Grey Girlfriend, the upbeat and introspective words and sound of Whale Belly (Park Slope), The Robin Electric with nostalgic twinges of their Cleveland roots, and string band turned electric from Chicago, Panoramic and True.
Artists include talent like artist and curator Ben Peterson, Christine Nguyen, illustrator Mariana Silva, award-winning motion graphics designer Mauricio Leon, illustrator Travis Simon, Daria Tessler and many more.
The show takes place this Sunday June 5th at Littlefield in Brooklyn
Doors open at 6, with a free art reception and $10 cover for the music.
All proceeds will benefit the effort of Project Kaisei.