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Screen + Sound + Stage
November 27, 2017

This Artist Is Turning Ocean Waste Into A Work Of Art

Text by Saumya Sinha

Tan Xi Zi’s installation is a comment on the unsustainable culture of convenience

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Growing up, Singapore-born artist Tan Zi Xi believed that creative processes are inherently messy which played an important role in shaping her mind while she was studying illustration at Central Saint Martins in London. Having always been environmentally conscious, she created a series of illustrations called An Effort Most Futile through which she tried to share her concerns about the deteriorating state of the ecosystem. Nine years later, in the same vein, her installation Plastic Ocean at Sassoon Dock seeks to comment on the realities of the toxic levels of sea pollution and is composed of over 20,000 pieces of refuse that are motionlessly suspended.

What was the idea behind your artwork?
“Through my art, I hope to increase awareness about the dire situation our oceans are in and also implore people to evaluate their personal plastic waste generation and disposal habits. Plastics are non-biodegradable and will remain on Earth for a very long time. Plastic Ocean will appeal to the morality of the public and shed light on how the culture of convenience is unsustainable. The installation has been created with site-specific elements and fitted into a room with mirrors covering the four walls, to create an infinity room of waste much akin to the current situation in the Pacific Ocean. It took a whole month to procure the recycled plastics along with cleaning, stringing and putting the project together.”

Can you tell us a little about the processes involved?
“It included purchasing recycled materials from Dharavi along with washing and cleaning all of it. I followed it up with demonstrative lessons to the Koli women on how to sew individual strings together in the correct length — getting that part right was of utmost importance.”

What was your experience like?
“The most interesting part of this project was visiting the Dharavi recycling market and learning more about India’s recycling culture. It was heartening to learn that the installation has also resonated with the locals as they could relate my artwork to how their own beaches are dirty and constantly littered with plastic waste.”

Previous: Curiot and Romina Romanelli

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