June 30, 2011 : I Am Aware - Don't Let Violence Change Our World
Plastic Gyre - Don't Let Violence Change Our World
The Project: The piece is temporarily living within the well protected courtyard of a secure domestic violence shelter compound. I worked for a domestic violence agency that is recognized as an innovator in the field internationally. The piece will eventually be placed in our staff kitchen which faces a courtyard to a small apartment complex used by our agency for transitional housing. It can't remain in the courtyard, which is the main entrance to our building, because it obstructs the receptionist view - you see, enraged partners sometimes attempt to find the spouse that fled, with children but without clothing, vehicle or birth certificates.
Each summer, the school based team I was a part of, works with youth who participate in a citywide initiative to give them work experience. Most come prepared for a mindless task in an office building. HA! We take our captive audience and turn them into mini ambassadors, expecting them to take what they learn with us, back to their schools.
The Issues: Violence works like a stink in the room. At some point, kids become desensitized to the odor of violence. They become complacent and there is no longer an expectation of a safe school environment. On the violence behavior continuum, the lowest form of violence, is usually identified as a word, such as calling a guy "gay" or a girl "bitch". The highest form of violence, and the one that makes the whole school and community wake-up, is usually a rape, but can also be a murder of one of the partners in a teen relationship by the other. Environmental hazards work similarly, especially as they relate to plastic waste. The continuum is slow to be seen. That plastic shopping bag that just flew out of your car and is now rolling like a tumble weed across the highway until it gets caught by a tree line, a fence or perhaps, blown over the fence to land in a cemetery along the highway, is in the lowest position on the continuum. The Pacific Gyre, a plastic garbage wasteland, larger than the United States, is the highest form of preventable environmental violence. More than likely, your little plastic bag, that caught wind and flew out of your car, is floating in the PG...trade winds, my darlin'.
The Link: Being mindful of the stink, the power of word and the power of choice, moves one from routine acceptance, to a cascade of interconnected decisions. Altering one behavior at the lowest level on the continuum, asking others to do the same, reduces the risk of creating a vortex of hatred or garbage that forever changes our ability to choose. We cannot move the garbage now in the Pacific Gyre. We cannot undo the taking of a young life. We can prevent these issues from happening in other oceans and in other lives.
The Piece: The work consist of 750+ single use, mostly water bottles, packed into a 6' x 6' wooden frame. A template of a "gyre" was created, colors assigned to eight sections, and calculated a need for 56 bottles per color. Those bottles for the gyre were painted with enamel paint pens. The rest of the bottles were left as they were. In addition to the bottles the kids brought in, those saved from a Father's Day event hosted by our agency, we also collected 9 huge plastic bags of bottles from our local recycling center. With 19 youth and 3 adults, cleaning, stripping off labels, painting, and installing, it took approximately 30 hours to complete the project.