On the 5th year of Drifters Project’s presence and action in Kefalonia, we were given a major exhibition at the Goulandris Museum of Natural History in Athens, Greece~! The exhibition opened in May 2015, and has just been extended for a second time through May 2016! The museum is a vast, classical Victorian natural history museum of extensive specimens and fantastic dioramas, founded by the visionary Mrs. Goulandris, botanical illustrator of the flora of Greece, and has a massive contemporary addition that houses the Gaia Center, a vast space dedicated to the changing face of the planet. This is where Dianna Cohen and I installed our art exhibition, along with four photographers we invited. Also invited were scientists of the Hellenic Marine Research Center and Marlisco, both organizations dedicated to researching marine plastic pollution in Greece and Europe.
The 45 ft. long Ouroboros made last year for the Ionion Center exhibition traveled to Athens and I unfurled and reconfigured it as Post-Ouroboros (death by plastic), stretched out as a full-length ‘skin’ over the Gaia Center grand hall, echoing the taxidermied specimens of the natural history collection.
I also created a new 12 ft. x 10 ft. wall piece that updates an ancient Greek marble sculpture titled Laocoon that depicts the murder of a priest of Poseidon who warned of the danger of the Trojan horse,and was thus punished by an attack of two sea serpents sent by Poseidon who killed his two sons. Seen as the symbol of a ‘voice of warning’ that goes unheeded, my work titled Newer Laocoon (voice of warning) gives voice to the ocean, now sending plastic back to us to warn us of its damaging effect and her state of ill-health. I envisioned both black and white serpents representing a balance evocative of the yin-yang symbol as a necessary next step in humanity’s realignment with nature.
Our exhibition in the Gaia Center wrapped around the atrium of the vast hall that has a 40 ft. globe of the earth with video project of ocean currents and weather cycles. The show paired my physical works made from ocean plastic with Dianna’s constructions made of post-consumer plastic bags, along with stunning micro-photographs by Robert Simmons of colonized plastic from my archive, disturbingly beautiful images of models in ocean plastic ‘couture’ by Dyan Ferren, wildlife victims of plastic by Wayne Sentman, and Pat Swain’s haunting images of wind-blown plastic bags encountered in the high mountains of Kefalonia.
The most interesting part of my installation happened when I was given permission to make ‘interventions’ in the natural history dioramas in the older Victorian part of the museum. This classical museum contains the taxidermy animal specimens when museums of natural history collected wild creatures for display. Active collecting of some creatures, despite extinction threats, still continues in some museums, but the Goulandris stopped this practice many years ago.
Amidst the halls of African cats, antelope, giraffes and birds of prey, there are also local fauna of Greece, some now extinct. I was allowed to insert my plastic artifacts collected on Kefalonia into displays of land and sea turtles and the now extinct Mediterranean Monk Seal, to speak of the cruel impact that contemporary vagrant plastic has on the creatures that encounter it.
My final intervention in the installation of ocean plastic in the museum was by creating a styrofoam ‘beach’ underneath a Triceratops fossil skeleton.
As ancient life forms in death created the petroleum that is now the primary source material of plastic production, I arranged sea-worn styrofoam taken from the Giant Sea Cave at Liakas as a contemporary landscape for the fossilized bones of the Triceratops.