Paola Antonelli on “Plastiglomerates,” Pollution, and Geology

As part of Metropolis's ongoing Noteworthy series—where leading design figures identify objects that have inspired or influenced them—Antonelli discusses dense plastic-sand conglomerates called plastiglomerates,
Paola Antonelli Plastiglomerates Broken Nature

Courtesy the artist and Fierman Gallery, photo courtesy Jeff Elstone

I saw these objects for the first time at David Fierman’s gallery in Manhattan in 2017. I could not get them out of my mind, so they are now installed at the very beginning of Broken Nature, the XXII Triennale di Milano (which opened this month). Geologist Patricia Corcoran, oceanographer Charles Moore, and artist Kelly Jazvac traveled to Kamilo Beach on Hawaii’s Big Island, where each year the ocean deposits tons of human-made garbage coming from as far away as Japan. This includes food and drink containers, fishing nets, toothbrushes, cigarette lighters, and smaller, unidentifiable shards of various colors, all fused by bonfires, creating dense plastic-sand conglomerates called plastiglomerates. The heavier fragments could potentially be sealed in the sedimentary record, leaving a permanent human mark in the earth’s strata. Plastiglomerates are fossils from the future that will inevitably preserve our senseless present.

Paola Antonelli Plastiglomerates Broken Nature

Courtesy Marton Perlaki

Paola Antonelli is senior curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art, as well as MoMA’s founding director of research and development. Her current projects include this year’s Triennale di Milano, titled Broken Nature; the reinstallation of the collection in the expanded MoMA; several new sessions of her MoMA R&D Salons; a VR series called “&Design”; and two books—a collection of essays on contemporary design, and Design Bites, a book about foods from all over the world as examples of design.


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Categories: Design