Drifters. Plastics, Pollution and Personhood.

2 May 2011 0 Share

Environmental News
May 3, 2011

By Bridget Reedman

Pam Longobardi's got heart. Pam's Drifters Project focuses on the global issue of plastic debris in the ocean and her love for the life aquatic has married her awareness of marine pollution and artistic talent. Drifters is an ongoing project of photography, installation and public art using plastic debris found on South Point Beach, Hawai'i.

As a professor of art at Georgia State University in Atlanta, Pam's art is a philosophical as it is demonstrative. In a plastic fantastic society where do we prioritise the value of the environment over a throw away culture?

Coastalwatch caught up with Pam to find out about relationship between humans and the ocean…


CW - How did your significant connection to the ocean develop?
PL - My father was an ocean lifeguard on the Jersey shore when I was a young child. He always had us out in the waves. I had a near drowning experience at 8 years old that I survived. I was caught in a rip and was sucked out and wedged between two posts of an old jetty, underwater. The only time I could get my nose above water for a breath was when the wave pulled back. I struggled and struggled to free myself and was lacerated by the barnacles growing all over the posts. I finally gave up, knowing I couldn't get free and just waited underwater. I opened my eyes and watched for a long time the barnacles feeding with their feathers out. It was so beautiful, it relaxed me and the next big wave that came in pushed me free and I washed into shore, completely smeared red with blood.

This taught me a kind of mystical lesson with the ocean, a combination of fearful respect and awe at its beautiful mysteries.

For a number of years, I was busy with my career and lost the connection to the sea, but I was getting depressed and needed it back in my life. Now I am a surfer and my project ties me very deeply to the ocean.

What is the motivation behind your work? What do you do to draw attention to this cause?
I feel the most profound mysterious place on earth is the sea. It is the circulatory system of the whole planet. It is a living entity, and I believe it is communicating with us. It is in serious trouble.

I believe the ocean is trying to tell us something, send us messages. The ocean has been force-fed our material waste and now it is regurgitating it, spitting it back out for us to look at. It is re-configuring and intermingling the material production of our contemporary culture in order to communicate with us.

The weird serendipity of juxtapositions of the objects I find in close proximity tell a story. For example, how can it be that I find an army man and a toy camel right next to each other on a tiny spot of land in the middle of the Pacific? Or a piece of broken crate that looks just like a star of David near another piece of a different crate that looks like a Christian cross? These things are the symbols of the senseless wars humans are raging on each other right now. Or sometimes, a group of the same object, but of obviously different ages, will all collect together. Or one little pocket of the micro plastic "sand", the ocean is organising all of this for us to see.

I feel every time I go on a collecting mission, I am receiving messages from the ocean. It is saying, "PAY ATTENTION!"

Where do you see art as a form of activism in the political landscape?
I am interested in art that exists not only in the art world, but in the world at large. I am interested in a model of the artist as a citizen/activist. Artists are very good at seeing and by creating artwork, showing others what we have seen. Art can be a call to arms. Art can be more than a luxury object. It can be a functional document of change, of environmental change, of political change, of social change. Art can be motivational, transformational and educational.

I am interested in documenting my time on earth as one part of large interconnected web, and interfacing with as many different facets of human culture and the natural world as possible. Because of my work and the attention that I pay, I have had extraordinary experiences with nature. It is a part of my art practice that extends beyond the private contemplation of the studio and intersects with the exterior world.

To see more of Pam's studio artwork click here. To find out more about Drifters - Plastics, Pollution and Personhood, click here.


More Environmental News...



Do you care how pristine your local beach is? How does your community look after your beach? Or do you think trash is better in the ocean, out of sight out of mind?




Tags: art , conservation , people (create Alert from these tags)

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