In her newest body of ceramic sculpture and installation, Svendsen articulates her preoccupation with the interconnectivity of humanity and nature by employing the language of trash. This latest iteration, Refuse, introduces the use of cast-off plastics, which she reproduces in delicate ceramic sculptures. In this, she posits plastic cast-offs as cultural artifacts - evidence of a singular, undocumented past; a visual manifestation of a material interaction and a discarded moment. In examining her work, one considers the notion of nuisance; humanity’s imposed hierarchy on the natural world; and nature’s unrelenting insistence on revealing itself to us.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the name given to a large body of plastics floating in the North Pacific Gyre, a remote area of ocean approximately one thousand miles off the coast of California. The North Pacific Gyre is notable as one of the largest and most remote ecosystems in the world. It is also host to an enormous collection of floating plastics estimated to be twice the size of Texas. The plastics found in this area have collected there by way of a group of gathering ocean currents.
Because the small bits of plastic that make up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch are not perceivable from satellites or airplanes, an expedition of ships has been launched to determine the actual levels of plastics in this area. This expedition, Project Kaisei (“Ocean Planet” in Japanese) is ongoing. However, the first expedition concluded that small plastic debris was found in every surface sample collected in over 3500 miles of ocean water, an average of 334,271 pieces of plastic per square mile.
Plastics in the ocean are known to cause damage to a variety of wildlife including fish, turtles and seabirds. By some estimates, over 100,000 marine animals die every year from plastic entanglement.
Researchers in the Netherlands found that 96% of the stomach contents of dead fulmars had plastic. There was an average of 23 plastic pieces per bird.
Plastics have been found in the stomachs of baby albatross, mistakenly fed to them by their mothers.
A study of gannet nests in Wales found that over 90% of them contained plastic. Plastics in the nest can result in the strangulation of the birds and their young.
The endangered leatherback turtle is known to ingest plastic debris and to mistake plastic bags for jellyfish. As the plastics block their breathing pathway, these mistakes are deadly.
Ground up plastics, which attract the toxins of the ocean, are also ingested by small fish, which are then eaten by larger fish, and eventually make their way up the food chain into humans.
Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour.
A portion of the sales from refuse will be donated to Project Kaisei.