Beautiful Garbage

The specific art piece that I examined was “Sandstars”. This piece consisted of a myriad of man made artifacts off the coast of Mexico neatly arranged by color laid out in a rectangle on the floor. Some of these items included lightbulbs, bottles, driftwood, helmets, and toilet paper. This artwork clearly draws attention to the environmental issue of huge swaths of garbage floating around in the ocean. While this is not a unique statement, the way in which “Sandstars” demonstrates that is unique. I think we’ve all seen some variety of the ad that shows birds being choked by the plastic pieces that hold soda cans together and tell you to stop littering. That kind of message is very direct and makes you feel bad and guilty to see, but “Sandstars” doesn’t do that. The art piece is pleasant to look at and is disconnected from the adverse affects of these artifacts in the ocean. And they truly are artifacts; as opposed to random pieces of plastic the items in “Sandstars” are interesting. We already know that all the trash we dump in the ocean is bad, but “Sandstars” gives scale to that. It makes you ask, if there are this many intact lightbulbs, how many shattered and living inside sea creatures? or If there were this many interesting things, how many boring pieces of plastic are out there?

I don’t think this art piece lends itself toward a scientific approach. The objects and arrangement of them is very clearly aesthetic and they don’t communicate scientific findings or a hypothesis to be tested. We already know that there is a huge amount of trash in the ocean and this doesn’t objectively quantify that, but rather shows it to you in a very personal way. I also find it difficult to pinpoint exactly what the call to action is here. We are presented with an issue we know is an issue in an interesting and unique way, but there is no new solution offered, except possibly to simply go pick up trash off the beach. It seems that the piece does much more to make the viewer think about the issue. One of the ways I think this piece does that is with the toilet paper rolls. If viewed out on a beach instead of as part of this art piece, one might look over them completely. As was said in the video, they look like some sort of natural object, but upon closer inspection they are not. It’s clear the roll has been degraded, but in considering how much toilet paper we flush down the drain, it’s alarming.

One of the best things about “Sandstars” is that it does a great job in terms of environmental cost. Gabriel Orozco literally cleaned up a wildlife reserve to gather the materials for the art piece. Furthermore it seems fair to assume that a lot more was picked up than just the items used in the piece. The only possible environmental impact I can see from this is the fuel cost of shipping the items. This seems like it would be relatively small considering the small amount of objects.

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