Artist Robin Frohardt outfitted a space to look like a real grocery store, feature everyday household and food items with a plastic-themed twist to call attention to the environmental and health issues that arise from plastic waste.
The overabundance of plastic waste
The Plastic Bag Store is a public art installation and immersive film by artist and director Robin Frohardt employing humor, craft, and a critical lens to our culture of consumption and convenience — specifically, the enduring effects of our single-use plastics.
The shelves of the Plastic Bag Store will be stocked with thousands of original, hand-sculpted items — produce and meat, dry goods and toiletries, cakes and sushi rolls — all made from discarded, single-use plastics in an endless flux of packaging. The store transforms into an immersive, dynamic stage for a film in which inventive puppetry, shadow play, and intricate handmade sets tell the darkly comedic, sometimes tender story of how the overabundance of plastic waste we leave behind might be misinterpreted by future generations.
Outrageous relationship to plastic
“Within the unassuming, amusing, and completely illogical proposal of a ‘plastic bag store,’ Robin is addressing capitalism, consumerism, and climate change, and asking big questions about how what we value the least can become our most consequential inheritance. At the same time, this project is shifting our perception of our everyday surroundings – once you visit The Plastic Bag Store, you can’t unsee that our irrational and outrageous relationship to plastic is real.”
Jean Cooney, Director, Times Square Arts
To encourage a different way of thinking about the foreverness of plastic
"’The Plastic Bag Store’ is a visually rich, tactile, and humorous experience that hopefully encourages a different way of thinking about the foreverness of plastic, the permanence of the disposable and that there is no ‘away’ when we throw something out," said Frohardt.
"It is my attempt to make something authentic and human from that which is mass-produced. There is great humor to be found in the pitfalls of capitalism and I find that humor and satire can be powerful tools for social criticism, especially with issues that feel too sad and overwhelming to confront directly."
10,000 pieces of single-use plastic items
Frohardt filled the store’s shelves with nearly 10,000 pieces of single-use plastic items, which she collected over the course of many years from friends, her building and things she found on the street.
"Most of this single-use plastic is designed for its convenience. And so, you use it for only seconds, and then you throw it away. So it’s out of sight out of mind. But because it doesn’t decompose, it doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s still here, it’s still somewhere. So that little red stir stick you stirred creamer into your coffee in a bank in 1995 is possibly floating out in the ocean somewhere," said Frohardt. "So I just kind of wanted to, instead of throwing all this stuff away, just collect it and keep it in one place and sort of give people a sense of how much waste there is."
Not just think about the next two weeks
“At a time when we are whiplashed daily by the news of the day, Robin’s work prods us, with creativity and wit, to think not just about the next two weeks, but also about the next two decades and the next two centuries. What will remain hundreds of years hence? In Times Square, we hope that our legacy will be plays rather than piles of plastics, shows rather than scraps, imagination rather than excess.”
Tim Tompkins, President, Times Square Alliance
Ban on single -use plastic bags
The exhibit’s opening coincides with New York’s ban on single-use plastic bags.The order had been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Seven other states across the nation have already banned single-use plastic bags, but Frohardt said more needs to be done.
The Plastic Bag Store is created, written, designed, and directed by Robin Frohardt and produced by Pomegranate Arts, which is led by Executive Producer Linda Brumbach and Associate Producer Alisa Regas. It features original music by Freddi Price.
Source: Time Square Arts
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