The role of plastic
in modern civilisation
We are an artistic response to a scientific fact evoked by human actions: plastic has become an agent in the process of evolution. Produced over only one century of human history, man-made synthetic compounds are no longer separate from natural history. Visible and invisible alike, plastic joins the large group of elusive signifiers of the age of the Anthropocene.
While plastic often serves as one of the most perceptible signs for late capitalism’s impact on the natural environment, the micro-history of plastic is a tale not yet apparent to the human eye. Scientists, however, have observed microorganisms absorbing polyethylene particles for many years. Marine plankton, for example, is known to consume microplastic particles present in our oceans on a large scale. Instead of being harmed or killed by the foreign intake, plankton seems to adjust its own molecular compounds, that is: its physical configuration, in response to the consumption of plastic. In other words, plankton has begun to absorb plastic.
The outcome of this conjunction is yet unknown and unpredictable. Yet, scientists have given us various reasons to believe that nature’s adjustment to “eating” plastic happens faster than expected. What if a century of plastic production and littering has already caused irreversible environmental changes? What if evolutionary steps based on the bond between organisms and synthetic plastic have already begun taking place? At the threshold to the second decade of the 21st century, a future with polyethylene-mutated species has become imaginable.
At the base of this imagination lies the question: will this future still be welcoming to the human race? The future we see and fear is a future without humans. For centuries, mankind had thought that the world’s creation followed a plan. On the contrary, modernity has taught us that evolution is subject to chance and coincidence. Today, we face the reality that our actions play a part in this process. We are able to imagine ourselves replaced by species that evolved out of our own industrial production.
We attempt to make visible the invisible story behind plastic. Is the man-made dissemination of plastic and its microparticles a mere accident? Or, is our history just one part of nature’s plan for planetary development, shaped by us but eventually surpassing us? Have we even begun creating deformed species of unspeakable evolutionary force? Survival is a drive deeply programmed in any natural being’s DNA. Thus, action for environmental justice and securing life on this planet is part of this story.
ASPHYXIA is as an interpretation of this action.