Debris, Detritus and Delicacy at Anchorage Museum

If you attended APT7 at Brisbane’s GOMA last year, you may remember this ethereal work from Kiwi artist Joanna Langford:

Joanna Longford

Born in Gisborne, New Zealand (just like me!) Joanna’s work Crawl Space was a beautifully light and breezy sculpture of timber, wire and plastic wrap. It instantly reminded of the plastic bags I used to see washed up on the beaches of the Gold Coast, where I grew up.

It always struck me how these ragged bits of torn plastic were able to look so weirdly beautiful wrapped higgledy-piggledy around seaweed and old fishing line, yet be so totally disgusting and brutal to the marine ecosystem. I remember once seeing a plastic bag caught in a whirly gig in one of Brisbane’s laneways. A gust of wind had blown it weightlessly into this narrow walkway and, trapped in the wind tunnel, it could do nothing but spin and drift and spin again. It was like watching a ballet – delicate and a little bit sad. It was too high up for me to grab and throw in a bin, and a part of me was pleased because I didn’t want to be responsible for killing the fragility of the movement. I’ve always felt a bit weird retelling this story, because it wasn’t a beautiful moment at all. It was litter, and it was ruining the environment. But for a brief moment there, it looked like something special.

Now an amazing exhibition at Anchorage Museum in Alaska has opened, and it’s the epitome of everything I saw in that piece of pirouetting plastic (I just love a bit of alliteration, don’t you?!).

Gyre: Creating Art From a Plastic Ocean is a unique mix of art and science that brings together 25 artists from the UK, North America and Australia who travelled as a pack last year, accompanied by a group of scientists, and combed the Alaskan coastline for debris that could be reclaimed and made into art. The result is an exhibition that kicks us in the conscience, forcing us to face the impact that consumption-driven humans have on the world’s oceans.

I saw beauty in the plastic bag on the street that day, but I’m happy for it to have been a one off.

Images are taken from Anchorage Daily News website. Go to for more.

Check out Anchorage Museum’s exhibition overview for a snippet of the film made during the discovery expedition

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