Sunday as I browsed the news I read a story about the trash caught up in the Pacific Ocean Gyre.
The Gyre contains a floating continent of Plastic debris the size of Texas. Captain Charles Moore was on his way home from a sailing trip, Los Angeles to Hawaii when he decided to cut across the area, little traveled by seaman on his way back to California. Moore explains the Gyre as a Spiral that moves in a clockwise rotation created by ocean currents.
This spiral traps debris in its current and holds them in place.
Moore estimates that plastic started showing up in the 1950s and has grown to an alarming size, thousands of miles across.
The plastic is submerged just below the surface, undetectable from satellite images because of the reflection caused by the water.
Garbage had historically broken down in the oceans until plastic came along.
Every year this new material increases its presence in the ocean and the Trash Continent in the Pacific Gyre grows.
When I read the story I thought about Robert Smithson Spiral Jetty, and how the twisting currents of the Gyre worked on this manmade continent of trash. As I read more on the story the more I have been captivated by its relationship to the idea of entropy and natural systems.
This continent of trash is an unforeseen conscience of human behavior at work in the natural system. Un-natural materials discarded in a thoughtless manner now have grown to unimaginable levels that are impacting the eco system and sea life.
Moore explains his journey through this remote part of the Pacific Ocean from the view point of an experienced seaman who still is shocked by his discovery. He has engaged in research to study the area and is astonished so little has been done to understand the impact of such an ecological danger, of the Pacific trash dump.
As an artist I am struggling with the concept of such a large structure whose mass rotates in a natural form, the spiral.
But by reflecting on whirlpools and eddy’s in the river where I live I can envision such a fantastic structure created by the forces of nature. The image of such things takes me back to Robert Morris installations where he used cotton fibers to create seas of waste with mirrors calculated to continuously reflect the surface into an infinite image of volume and mass. Morris was part of a group of process artists. (Process artists were involved in issues attendant to the body, random occurrences, improvisation, and the liberating qualities of non-traditional materials such as wax, felt, and latex. Using these materials, they created eccentric forms in erratic or irregular arrangements produced by actions such as cutting, hanging, and dropping, or organic processes such as growth, condensation, freezing, or decomposition.)
These ideas seemed radical in art, difficult to adjust our thinking too back in 1970s and 1980s.
But it is clear now that the minimal and conceptual ideas of artists like Morris and Smithson were a reflection of the natural systems at work in our earth environment.
Unintended or manufacture their only differences are intent, the results are mirror reflections of the outcomes, like Morris’s fiber and mirror installations.
Here in the middle of the Pacific is a random occurrence of the accumulation of Man Made Materials that may well be with us for untold time and sure to grow in mass and volume daily.
It is truly a fantastic story that reinforces the ideas about systems that occur in the natural world.
It is a fantastic story about us, our actions have slipped from our control and now have entered the natural system and become part of the environment, a reality of our presence and actions.
Perhaps the Gyre will become a natural museum that unintentionally perseveres a record of our presence.
It is something to think about. Read more on the Continent of Trash.
Floating Rubbish Dump in the Pacific Bigger than Texas
“Currents in the North Pacific move in a clockwise spiral, or gyre, which tends to trap debris originating from sources along the North Pacific rim. Plastics and other waste have accumulated in the region, which includes the foraging areas of Pacific bird colonies, such as that of the Tern Island albatross, shown in blue, and that of the Guadalupe Island albatross, shown in green”; Charles Moore
Article by Charles Moore, Sea Captain, Researcher
UPDATE: NewsHour story November 13, 2008
Just follow the link:
About Photographer Chris Jordan’s Work, by David Eubank