Once upon a time, many moons ago, the mountains were my home. For a whole winter season I was in awe of the vast natural landscape, how many colours snow actually can be (hint – not just white) and how quickly the environment can change. Because of this, images of mountains have a special place in my heart and mind – and the images from Vilde Rolfsen stirred something in me. Except these gorgeous landscapes are not natural at all: if anything they are the complete opposite. They are made from plastic bags.
The irony is not lost. Rolfsen wants us to realise the implications of our decisions, however small, and the impact the scale of these decisions have on our local and wider environment. The ‘Plastic Bag Landscapes’ series are a collection of bittersweet images made from the worst of all discarded synthetic waste – plastic.
All picked up whilst in the UK, the plastic bags were cleaned, arranged, lit and coloured in the studio – and made to look like Tolkeinesque landscapes, which are stunning, yet awful, as Rolfsen comments in the series.
“Plastic bags are a huge contributor to the landfill waste and are extremely harmful for our oceans and the creatures living there. Do not say yes to a plastic bag when shopping.”
And what is particularly successful about these pieces is that they are genuinely beautiful. The material and subtext certainly isn’t, but creating something that people want to engage with, rather than being immediately repulsed by is a far more powerful thing to do. The message hits home harder when people realise what they are – and why you have done it. We found this repeatedly when we exhibited our Ghost Gear Chandelier at Clerkenwell Design Week in 2016, made from recovered marine litter.
“When I have exhibited my work, people would come up to me and say, ‘I’ve been looking at this for a while and while it is beautiful I feel disgusted with myself because I now understand what this work is about,’” Rolfsen said in a recent interview with the Huffington Post “I think that sums it up pretty nicely.”
Realisation and subsequent behaviour change can be tricky and even though we now have the plastic bag charge in the UK, there are still multiple places that do not have to impose a charge – or of course, the option of buying another single use plastic bag.
So when you are posed with that situation again, think of the beautifully awful Plastic Bag Landscape series by Vilde Rolfsen and ask yourself – do you want your actions to be part of this?
(images courtesy of Vilde Rolfsen)