by Gribaudi Plytas
website - instagram

Plastic is often invisible; we think nothing of seeing it littered in the street, and even less about its afterlife once we have disposed of it. Yet it is an unsettling fact that most of the plastic binned in Britain is sent overseas where it is often burned, buried, or left in the ocean; the attitude is one of out of sight, out of mind. 

Rather than ignoring plastic, or treating it as a material pariah, artist duo Gribaudi Plytas instead set out to actively acknowledge it. Beginning by quantifying the amount of plastic they themselves produced on a weekly basis, their research soon led them to exploring the potential of the material, treating it the same as they would wood or steel. They soon found their own perception of plastic shifted; they
began to notice it more around them, discarded in heaps – its potential lost, waiting to be reclaimed. Plastic transformed from an entity they regarded with disgust, to one which they saw with respect, revealing a process in which conscious attention to a material unlocked the potential to recover and restore that which is already all around us.

Creative Proposition: Plastic Study 1a

Documented intervention, pamphlet and shelf
16 pages / Analogue photographs, on paper, reused pots and wood

We have always seen strewn plastic, yet we still use and bin so much of it. Studying the material for our research project was about learning more about plastic’s afterlife. As we began, we were already keeping as much from our own consumption as possible. We felt we might use it in our practice, but we also wanted to store our non-recyclables. We had not yet consciously discovered that even recyclable plastic mostly ends up in the environment.

Through our Climate and Cities research, we came face to face with this widespread cover-up. New plastic is produced every day, and there is almost no way that its destiny will be any different from the plastic that pokes out of the ground. It was overwhelming. The only way we could envisage continuing our research was through small actions.

We attempted to use less plastic and stepped up the amount we stored from our usage. We made street interventions, in which we agglomerated plastic we found. We temporarily took some of our plastic from the studio and photographed it alongside the discarded plastic we came across. We took long walks and documented all the plastic we encountered.

These practices had a big impact on our perception; we began to see plastic differently. It was no longer an entity we regarded with disgust, but with respect. The material is not inherently bad, but rather it is allowed to enter into disastrous contact with the environment. We felt a deep desire to change our plastic legacy.

In our pamphlet - Plastic, Study 1a - we write of a world in which our efforts no longer go into producing new plastic but instead into recovering and storing that which is already dispersed in the environment. Following the text, we placed a series of photographs documenting a small action we took to recover and store plastic from our surroundings.

This investigation has changed the way we work. It has shown us that a conscious attention to materials can be a first step in re-establishing a respectful relationship with our environment. We are not as negative as we used to be when we think of our collective future. Storage, collection, exchange, repair, respect and love make us hopeful.