Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ghost Net

The shape and content of these images was inspired by Jackson Pollock’s seminal painting Full Fathom Five, so named from a line in Ariel’s song from The Tempest:
Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.

Line and rope from an enormous ghost net was unraveled to emulate the skeins of paint in Pollock’s work. Ghost nets are pernicious entanglements of lost commercial fishing gear. Birds, fish, and marine mammals get caught in this silent floating debris —trapped in what is called “ghost fishing.” The “catch” weighs the net down so it sinks. Scavengers consume the contents so the net floats again and continues to sink and rise forever. It is estimated that ghost nets, some up to 4,000 yards long, account for approximately 10% of all marine plastic pollution.

The ghost net used in these pieces came directly from the North Pacific Gyre. The gyre, an accumulation of plastic caught in circling currents in area northeast of Hawaii, is sometimes called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It is estimated to be 300,000 square miles—making it larger than Texas. By both weight and size it is the biggest garbage dump on earth. Plastic is composed of polymers that never “biodegrade” —they are with us forever sloughing and breaking down to make a polymer soup that outweighs the plankton in this area by a factor of 30 to 1.

Project Kaisei, based in San Francisco and Hong Kong, is a scientific and commercial venture whose mission is to study and cleanup the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. In the summer of 2009, when Project Kaisei returned from the gyre with a truckload of plastic debris they asked if we could store it. We are grateful to have the use of their collection.

For more than a decade we have collected and fashioned artwork from over two tons of plastic pollution gleaned exclusively from 1000 yards of Kehoe Beach along the Point Reyes National Seashore. For this project we gladly stepped outside of our usual geographical parameters.

These high resolution images were created and printed at Electric Works, a gallery and fine art print studio in San Francisco.

Our exhibition "Ghost Net" in the SFMOMA Artist Gallery Windows on Minna Street will be on display until June 2011.