Visiting “Beyond Drifting”, a Photographic Exhibition
– by Alicia Mateos Cárdenas –
Mandy Barker is an award winning British photographer whose artwork in marine plastic debris has received worldwide recognition. Her aim is “to engage with, and stimulate an emotional response in the viewer by combining a contradiction between initial aesthetic attraction and social awareness”
On the 27th of May I visited Cobh, Co. Cork, to attend Mandy Barker’s opening talk for her photography exhibition “Beyond Drifting: Imperfectly Known Animals” which was displayed at the Sirius Arts Centre. I very much enjoyed the afternoon learning more about Mandy Barker’s career and her art philosophy as well as meeting like-minded people. Her exhibition was displayed in Cobh from the 27th of May to the 2nd of July 2017. For those of you who would like to know what happened on the day, I have put some pictures together with my notes below. I hope you learn something new!
First Dr Tom Doyle (School of Natural Sciences NUI, Galway) introduced us to the life of John Vaughan Thompson, a pioneer planktologist, and some of the discoveries he made in Cobh and Cork Harbour during the 1800’s.
During his voyages, John Vaughan Thompson became amazed by marine bioluminescence so he developed a net to sample the surface of the water. This tool is also known as a “plankton net”, which was used by Charles Darwin during his voyage on the Beagle. This plankton net is currently used not only to catch plankton but to sample microplastics in oceans, rivers and lakes.
Dr Tom Doyle also brought a microscope and some plankton samples. So at the end of the session I got a chance to see some copepods, which are small crustacean plankton species, as well as other plankton species known to be able to ingest microplastics.
Following this talk, Mandy Barker introduced us to her life journey, artistic philosophy, and previous work, which involves photographing plastic recovered from beaches around the world.
The awarded series of photographs called “Indefinite” consists of ten photos of unwashed and unaltered objects found polluting sea shores. Mandy decided to mimic the shape of marine organisms that are harmed by marine debris, using those found objects.
However, her most awarded work to date is called “Soup”. Mandy told us that “Soup” was inspired by the North Pacific Garbage Patch (or “plastic soup”), which is known to accumulate large amounts of fragments of plastics suspended in the oceanic surface. “Soup” is presented as a book of eleven recipes where plastics are presented as the ingredients in each image.
Finally, she presented her new work and book “Beyond Drifting. Imperfectly Known Animals”. The work was inspired by John Vaughan Thompson’s publications on his discoveries of plankton, and follows their ‘old-school’ style. Mandy shows her “new specimens” created from objects collected from sea shores. With this work she wanted to present plastic pollution and the degradation of the environment by simulating scientific discoveries of new species.
More photos from the exhibition:
If you would like to have a look at the book, a review can be found here: