This week we were asked to identify a practitioner who interests us and informs our practice. I chose Mandy Barker whose work I have been impressed by and also curious about for a few months.
There are several audio and film recordings of Mandy Barker available at various events since her work on plastic pollution in our oceans caught the headlines with her work on ‘Soup’ from her time in Honk Kong and through to this year following the launch of her book ‘Beyond Drifting’ based on her time in residence in Cork, Ireland.
“The motivation for her work is to raise awareness about plastic pollution in the world’s oceans while highlighting its harmful affect on marine life and ultimately ourselves.” (Lensculture)
Mandy Barker’s images are creations made from plastic found across the world. Some are photographed using old cameras, out of date film, deliberately creating movement and using slow shutter speeds. The resultant effect is of new types of plankton, named in a latin style often with letters of the word plastic embedded within them. Each one is presented in a sphere against a black background as if a biological specimen. For example:
Specimen collected from Glounthaune shoreline, Cove of Cork, Ireland
(Pram wheel)”. (Photoworks, 2017).
Her inspiration links back to John Vaughan Thompson (1779-1847) who amongst his many discoveries identified planktons and realised their importance in the food chain. Her book Beyond Drifting: Imperfectly Known Animals (published by Overlapse in 2017) is presented in a Victorian style echoing the publications of John Vaughan Thompson other scientific researchers from the past.
In addition to her book Mandy has exhibited large scale installations depicting collections of themed items (such as lighters shown as a pod of dolphins and fishing debris as birds nests against black backgrounds) in public spaces outdoors as well as in galleries (e.g. San Fransisco Airport in 2017). What comes across in her interviews is a passion and commitment to use her talents to raise awareness and inspire others in order to make a difference.
I am certainly inspired, but in awe of her creative abilities that at this stage seem beyond my capabilities. I would like to try out the ways she has created apparent living creatures out of inanimate plastics, not to directly copy her approach for my project but rather to extend my experiences and hopefully skill set. In addition, I collect images of all sorts of debris on beaches not just plastics and am including research on waste recycling and processing so there are fundamental differences between us. Her dedication to research, not only relating to her finds and their locations, details of which she kept meticulously in notebooks, but also to the way in which the book has been imagined, collated and presented is unique, intriguing, beautiful and impactful.
Andre, Laura M. 7 June 2017. Available at: http://blog.photoeye.com/2017/06/book-review-beyond-drifting-imperfectly.html. [accessed 19-03-2018].
Barker, Mandy. 2017. Soup. Terminal 1 San Fransisco Airport Commission. 29 August 2017- 5 December 2017. Available at: https://www.flysfo.com/museum/exhibitions/mandy-barker-soup. [accessed 20-03-2018].
Lensculture. 2018. About Mandy Barker. Available at: https://www.lensculture.com/mandy-barker. [accessed 19-03-2018].
Overlapse. 19 June 2017. Interviews + Reviews for Beyond Drifting by Mandy Barker. Available at: https://www.overlapse.com/catalog/beyond-drifting/. [accessed 19-03-2018].
Photoworks. 3 May 2017. Interview: Mandy Barker. Available at: https://photoworks.org.uk/interview-mandy-barker/#close-no. [accessed 19-03-2018].