Plastic Beach

Nerina Wilter

1998, graduation show, Royal College of Art, London


504 non degradable plastic items collected on a stretch of deserted Kintyre coastline

In 1996, on a stretch of deserted Scottish coast overlooking the island of Arran I was saddened that the only human intervention with this otherwise wild and unspoilt landscape took the form of an accumulation of unnatural and non degradable plastic waste. I therefore resolved to clear the beaches thereabouts. On a test area approximately 200 x 50m, I documented every piece of non degradable plastic waste, noting size and use, and the manufacturer’s name if visible.

My objective in turning this collected waste into sculpture, was to accentuate the permanency of the objects and disempower the viewer’s ability to throw the pieces away. I wanted to remove the articles from our sensory perception of them as light, insubstantial and inconsequential pieces of everyday waste. Our familiarity with the easy disposal of plastic waste leads us to false associations with the nature of plastic. It will always turn up again somewhere. Like on a deserted beach in Scotland for instance.