Architectural and design studio Sam Jacob Studio has unveiled a new installation that highlights the burgeoning threat that plastic waste poses to the planet. Suspended from the ceiling of London’s V&A Museum, Sea Things is a giant, mirrored cube that emits a cartoon-style animated video. The animation takes spectators on a poignant journey from the year the first commercial plastic products were launched to 2050, the year some scientists estimate that the volume of plastic will be greater than fish in the world’s oceans.
As part of London Design Festival, Sea Life greets visitors as they enter the V&A Museum’s great hall. Suspended in the air, the massive, transparent cube was inspired by a Charles and Ray Eames textile pattern found in the museum that depicts a pattern of fish and other sea creatures.
However, the artist has updated the Eames pattern to reflect today’s growing ocean pollution issue. Along with a bevy of fish, a variety of waste objects found in the ocean these days, namely plastic bottles, has been added floating around in the cube.
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The animation begins in 1907, the year that one of the first commercial plastic products (Bakelite) was launched. The animation continues through the years, showing how the ocean waters have become more and more polluted with massive amounts of waste. The animation ends in 2050, the year that the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has estimated that the volume of plastic waste in our oceans will be greater than the amount of marine life.
During the inauguration of the eco-art installation, Sam Jacob explained his inspiration. “The Eames’ were working in a very optimistic time when consumerism was linked to freedom. For us, now, we’re working in a very different context. Our relationship to things, to production, to ecology is far more difficult and complex,” he told journalists. “So, what we’ve done here is to remake the Eames’ pattern from the perspective of 2019.”
While Sea Things is located on the ground floor, Jacob is also exhibiting a collection of ceramic water vessels in the museum’s ceramics gallery. The series reimagines some of the museum’s most historic objects remade in modern materials. For example, a water pot from China’s Ming Dynasty is reproduced in recycled plastic, and a 4,000-year-old beaker from Scotland was remade using bioplastic made from sea shells.
Photography by Ed Reeve via Sam Jacob Studio