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  • This is Sian Ka'an.

  • Just south of Tulum on Mexico's Caribbean coast,

  • it's a federally protected reserve,

  • a UNESCO World Heritage Site

  • and one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet.

  • But when I first visited in 2010,

  • I was horrified and completely confused

  • as to why the beach was covered in trash.

  • I soon realized that it was floating in from all over the world.

  • I've since returned, after that first journey,

  • several times a year

  • to visit Sian Ka'an, to the country of my birth,

  • to work with this trash.

  • And so far,

  • we've documented garbage from 58 different countries and territories

  • on six continents,

  • all washing ashore in this paradise in Mexico.

  • Although I can never know where a product was dropped,

  • I can, at times, based on the label, know where something was made.

  • In red, you see all of the countries represented by their trash

  • in Sian Ka'an.

  • Such as these Haitian butter containers in all shapes and sizes,

  • Jamaican water bottles.

  • Not surprisingly, a lot of the stuff is from neighboring Caribbean countries,

  • but the stuff is from everywhere.

  • Here's a sampling of international water bottles.

  • And one of the ironies is that a lot of what I'm finding

  • are products for cleaning and beautification,

  • such as this item from the United States,

  • which is actually made to protect your plastic,

  • (Laughter)

  • shampoo from South Korea,

  • bleach from Costa Rica

  • and a Norwegian toilet cleaner.

  • And it's items that are all very familiar to us,

  • or at least I hope you're familiar with these toothbrushes.

  • (Laughter)

  • Kitchen utensils.

  • Toys.

  • I'm also finding evidence of burning plastic trash,

  • which releases cancer-causing fumes into the air.

  • People ask what's the most interesting item that I've found,

  • and that's by far this prosthetic leg.

  • And in the background, if you can see that blue little bottle cap,

  • at the time that I found it,

  • it was actually the home to this little hermit crab.

  • This guy is so cute.

  • (Laughter)

  • (Laughter)

  • And it's these fascinating objects,

  • but also horrifying objects,

  • each with their own history,

  • that I use to make my ephemeral, environmental artworks.

  • And it all started with this image in February of 2010,

  • when I first visited Sian Ka'an.

  • I noticed that blue was the most prevalent color among the plastic.

  • Purple is actually the most rare color. It's kind of like gold to me.

  • But blue is the most prevalent,

  • and so I gathered some of the blues

  • and made this little arrangement in front of the blue sky

  • and blue Caribbean waters.

  • And when I took a photograph and looked at the test shot,

  • it was like a lightning bolt hit me in that moment,

  • and I knew I was going to have to come back

  • to create a whole series of installations on location

  • and photograph them.

  • So this turned out to be a sketch

  • for a work that I completed three years later.

  • I had no idea that almost 10 years later,

  • almost a decade later, I'd still be working on it.

  • But the problem persists.

  • So I'm going to show you some of the images

  • from the series that I called "Washed Up: Transforming a Trashed Landscape."

  • Please keep in mind that I do not paint the garbage.

  • I'm collecting it and organizing it by color

  • on the same beaches where I find it.

  • This is my precious trash pile as seen in 2015

  • after putting on a first edition of the "Museo de la Basura,"

  • or "Museum of Garbage."

  • It's fully my intention to care for this garbage,

  • to exalt it,

  • put it on a pedestal

  • and to curate it.

  • We have all seen devastating images

  • of animals dying with plastic in their bellies.

  • And it's so important for us to really see those

  • and to take those in.

  • But it's by making aesthetic -- some might say beautiful -- arrangements

  • out of the world's waste,

  • that I'm trying to hook the viewer

  • to draw in those that might be numb to the horrors of the world

  • and give them a different way to understand what's happening.

  • Some have described the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

  • as an island twice the size of Texas,

  • but I've been told that it's hard to see

  • because it's more like a smog.

  • So through my artwork,

  • I attempt to depict the reality of what's happening with our environment

  • and to make the invisible visible.

  • My key question at first, after starting the project,

  • was, "What do I do with the garbage when I'm done?"

  • I was told by some that it could be damaged goods

  • after traveling across the ocean and being exposed to the elements,

  • that it could become degraded and potentially ruin a batch of recycling.

  • The landfill was not a happy resting place, either.

  • And then finally, it dawned on me,

  • after all of the effort by me and all of the people who have helped me

  • collect and organize and clean this trash,

  • that I should keep it.

  • And so that's the plan,

  • to use it and to reuse it endlessly

  • to make more artwork

  • and to engage communities in environmental art-making.

  • This is an example of a community-based artwork that we did last year

  • with the local youth of Punta Allen in Sian Ka'an.

  • A key part of the community work are the beach cleans

  • and education programming.

  • And as this community around the project grows

  • and as my trash collection grows,

  • I really believe that the impact will as well.

  • And so, over the years,

  • I've become a little obsessed with my trash collection.

  • I pack it into suitcases and travel with it.

  • I take it on vacation with me.

  • (Laughter)

  • And in the latest work,

  • I've begun to break the two-dimensional plane of the photograph.

  • I'm really excited about this new work.

  • I see these as living artworks

  • that will morph and grow over time.

  • Although my greatest wish is that I run out of the raw material

  • for this work,

  • we're not there yet.

  • So in the next phase of the project,

  • I plan on continuing the community work

  • and making my own work at a much larger scale,

  • because the problem is massive.

  • Eight million tons of plastic waste enter our oceans every year,

  • destroying ecosystems.

  • Right now, as I speak, there's literally an oil spill of plastic happening.

  • I see this project as a plea for help and a call to action.

  • Our health and future is inextricably linked

  • to that of our oceans.

  • I call the project "Washed Up: Transforming a Trashed Landscape,"

  • but it's actually transformed me

  • and made me rethink my own behaviors and consumption.

  • And if it can help anybody else gain more awareness,

  • then it will have been worthwhile.

  • Thank you so much.

  • (Applause)

This is Sian Ka'an.

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B1 US TED trash garbage project caribbean artwork

【TED】Alejandro Durán: How I use art to tackle plastic pollution in our oceans (How I use art to tackle plastic pollution in our oceans | Alejandro Durán)

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/01/02
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