Plastiglomerate Class

Curator’s choice

Spewed up along volcanic shorelines, new compositions were first identified on Kamilo Beach by the geologist Patricia Corcoran and sculptor Kelly Jazcav. Coined plastiglomerates, these fusions were initially understood as combinations of sand and plastic sediments agglutinated by magma flows. Later, they were attributed to human hands, byproducts of campfires dotted down the garbage-strewn coastline.

Quickly, a symbolic potency amalgamated around the plastiglomerate. They were described as a potential marker of the debated Anthropocene and via Jazcav made their way into museums, including the Het Nieuwe Instituut, the Natura Artis Magistra, and the Yale Peabody Museum. As readymades they attested to a new hybridity between the planet and the human, a fusion of geological processes framed by artistic tradition. Aesthetically they fascinate, bejeweled with phosphorescent artificial colors, tinged with the pathos of being a new stratigraphic signature.

As ecological anxiety climbs, a new digital art sub-genre emerges to reflect shifting sentiments. Born from the oceanic tail-ends of vaporwave and post-internet fluidity, the “plastiglomerate class” parallels its geological forebear by washing up and awaiting discovery. As a loose classification, it is typified by the intersection of softwares, blurring together 3D scanned organic matter with wholly computational materials. A mirror to tectonic processes it undulates, ripples or pulses, implying a subtle living energy.

Often resulting in .obj files, the “plastiglomerate class” seeks a reincorporation with the natural world. Birthed via an iPhone screen, as augmented realities they merge back into basalt and are subsumed by algae, completing their bit-based life cycle.

Rick Silva

Geomancer 12

One of fifteen geological hybrids, Rick Silva’s Geomancer 12 (2021) is a clear example of the plastiglomerate esthetic. Comprising a mixture of geological matter and living digital material, it recollects the amalgamated artifacts found on plastic-rich beaches, yet differs in one important regard. Unlike the complex intermingling of fibers and sediments found in real life, a clear distinction between taxonomies of matter remains in this digital entity, with each side seemingly vying for territorial control. Existing in a tensioned symbiosis, the geomancer teeters towards being consumed by its computerized surface, a possible sign of the future it is divining.

Clement Valla

Damiana and Limestone [3D NFT version]

3D scanning rocks and making point-cloud gardens, Clement Valle’s work meditates on what might happen if we step away and let exuberant nature be. Part of a sequence of works which capture weedy outcrops, Damiana and Limestone (2021) is both a millimeter-accurate facsimile and a limited representation. On three sides the image is incomplete, inaccessible, limited by the constraints of the medium to only depict a severed edge of even blue. Recalling the color palette of photo and film editing, this artificial region reveals the computational vision underpinning a new era of image production.

Kakia Konstantinaki

The Daydreaming terrace series, A

Collapsing from a stable form, Kakia Konstantinaki’s The Daydreaming terrace series, A (2021) falls into perpetual molten motion in a manner that is both organically alive and synthetically sterile. Its textured surface appears to be informed by impressions of the surrounding architecture and its movements motivated by a relation to the warmth that fills her Athenian terrace. Part of a wider series, it is one of many blended 3D oddities with which Konstantinaki has populated public space while in a state of non-conscious thinking. This process can be understood as akin to automatic writing, but engaging a more sophisticated digital tool set.

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ines alpha

3ᗫ Ɓєαυту ᑶ⍺𐌠ᥱ𝑡𝑡ᥱ

Plastics wash out to sea, following tidal currents and enmeshing into islands. Over the years, waves weather and erode them, leeching ever smaller particles into the ocean and its life. With 70% of the Earth’s surface covered in water, the impact of synthetic materials can be inconceivable and is easily unseen, yet it remains a reality which increasingly is being realized on land. Though Ines Alpha’s 3ᗫ Ɓєαυту ᑶ⍺𐌠ᥱ𝑡𝑡ᥱ (2022) does not directly comment on these issues, its aesthetic is evidently aware of the changes that are taking place. Through AR technologies and social media platforms such as Snapchat, Alpha allows audiences to enmesh themselves with a synthetic nature that can be read as a forecast of our environmental future.

Sofia Crespo

{Specimen no. 1, Homalodisca griseoargenteata}

A byproduct of the Entangled Others collaboration between Sophia Crespo and Feileacan McCormick, Specimen no. 1, Homalodisca griseoargenteata} (2021) is a quadrapod insect, camouflaged to multicolored terrain with a laminated patina. Dissecting its Latin binomial nomenclature, we discover it derives from the sharpshooter genus of the cicadellidae family, with hints of Brazilian ivy. However, viewed within the prism of the “plastiglomerate class,” it can be understood as a natural result of leafhoppers inadvertently ingesting microplastic materials or conversely as one that has accustomed itself to living off plastic as its primary foodstuff.

Auriea Harvey

mother/child v1-dv1 #1/3
mother/child v1-dv1 #1/3 by Auriea Harvey

Microplastic pollution has been detected in 80% of tested humans. Extrapolated from its sedimentary roots, we all eventually become plastiglomerate hybrids, ingesting in drinking water and food microscopic polymers that lodge themselves among our organs. Derived from a 3D scan of the artist’s niece and her son, mother/child v1-dv1 (2022) is Auriea Harvey’s reimagining of a pietà, referencing Michelangelo’s famous iteration found a few blocks away from the artist’s home in Rome. Capturing an intimate moment between mother and child, it modernizes the symbolic hierarchies of pigment within Christian pictorial tradition.

A physical artifact version with NFT is available via Bitforms Gallery

Eva Papamargariti

Dance I

Situated at the far extreme of a plastic future, Eva Papamargariti’s DANCE I (2020) tracks the disorientating choreography of a bipedal protagonist whose physique seems composed of an equal mix of mud and polyethylene. Roughly humanoid in proportion, the unspecified figure is capped with a tentacular head that resembles a butchered organ. Triggering feelings of abjection, its mixed physiology challenges a corporal understanding of our independence from other things. Part of The Hollow Sound of Longing (2020) video series, Papamargariti’s protagonist is elsewhere found staring out hotel windows and reclining in a bathtub, implying its evolutionary relation to our present version of humanity.

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