These days discarded objects make good art.
Mandy Barker arranges and photographs discarded objects to create highly aesthetic prints. In her series titled “Soup”, her aim is to bring attention to the almost endless plastic debris that is suspended in our oceans. I previously reviewed in this blog the work of Edward Burtynsky where I commented that in creating formal beauty out of garbage and human damage, “he gives beauty to loathsome subject matter leaving us confused.” So it is with Barker’s “Soup” where “The series of images aim to engage with, and stimulate an emotional
response in the viewer by combining a contradiction between initial aesthetic attraction and social awareness.”
In another series entitled “Indefinite”, Barker continues to aestheticize and photograph discarded items but this time more formally arranged as single items. The work is reminiscent of Huang Xu’s beautiful plastic bags. Barker, however, adds a different twist. From irrecognizable discarded objects made beautiful (above) to more recognizable ones like discarded fishermen’s gloves (below), Barker labels these objects only with the time it takes for these items to degrade and disappear. The image above – 10 to 20 Years; the gloves 30 years.
This sort of art is engaging, informative and touches our social conscience. Yet it remains rooted in the negative. It does not yet manage to make the step of motivating us to alter our lifestyles with anything other than an attempt at imposed guilt. That, while useful, has its significant limitations.