Plastic Vanitas is a new series of photographic works by Mariele Neudecker curated by Susan Lambert. Developed as part of a residency at the Museum of Design in Plastics (MoDiP) and the Arts University Bournemouth, Neudecker re-presents the MoDiP’s plastic collection as vanitas still lifes.
Intrigued by the seemingly random storage of MoDiP’s collection, boxed by material, weight and size, Neudecker has created a new context for objects that appear to bear no real intellectual relationship to one another beyond the physical. Using the powerful genre of still-life vanitas, Neudecker re-stages each plastic object, creating new relationships and depths of meaning.
Vanitas painting is a specific genre of still-life painting in which the most exquisite accoutrements of everyday life are presented as symbols of the worthlessness of earthly achievement and the inevitability of death. A tradition that flourished in the Netherlands and Flanders in the 16th and 17th century, Neudecker develops the vanitas genre to symbolise the modern-day questions of impact, consumerism, waste and sustainability.
Plastic is part of the East End’s history: Alexander Parkes trademarked the first ever man-made plastic Parkesine in his Hackney Wick factory in 1856, just down the road from the Nunnery Gallery. Over one hundred years later plastic plays a significant role in each of our day-to-day lives. Plastic contributes to our comfort, functionality and, ultimately, our impact, degradation and mortality. Plastic Vanitas illuminates the many faces of plastic, revealing the narratives of its past and probing the question of its future.
Neudecker has reflected that working on the MoDiP project has made her reconsider plastics and their relationship to the environment. As part of Bow Arts’ striving for environmental awareness within the arts, Nunnery Gallery will host a panel event alongside the exhibition asking “Should arts be used as a tool for sustainability?”.
Curated by Susan Lambert. Supported by Arts Council England this is a collaborative project between TheGallery and MoDiP and a text + work touring exhibition. The exhibition will also tour to Bath Spa University and Poole Lighthouse.