A newly opened exhibition at the East Hawaii Cultural Center is designed to spur audiences to action while pushing the boundaries of what constitutes art. The exhibition, created in collaboration with the Hawaii Wildlife Fund, features heaps of plastic debris collected from Kamilo Beach along with tattered old fishing nets, deposited unadorned, throughout the EHCC gallery.
Inspection of the detritus offers evidence of human patterns of consumption: Old toothbrushes, discarded children’s toys, cracked straws no one would drink from now, wrappers, buttons, unidentifiable chunks of plastic, and — in a stark reminder of current events — bits from masks and personal protective equipment. The waste was collected by HWF between July and September of this year.
The exhibit will run through Nov. 26.
EHCC Gallery Director Andrzej Kramarz elaborates on his vision for the exhibit.
“This is certainly not the first time that museums and artists have employed art as a tool to bring attention to the problem of ocean plastic. But the usual approach often features whimsical sculptures made out of the garbage. This show is nothing like that: it’s blunt and visceral. We want to force viewers to confront the fact that today’s plastic waste is tomorrow’s environmental disaster.”
Multi-media efforts accompany the exhibition, beginning with a continuous showing of “Albatross,” an award-winning film by artist Chris Jordan. The production is billed as “a powerfully moving love story about birds on Midway Island in the Pacific whose bodies are filled with ocean plastic.” Photography by artists Eric Edwards and Laurel Schultz will also be on display.
Educational efforts are incorporated into exhibition activities. EHCC is planning Zoom lectures by experts in science and culture who can illuminate the tragic impact of ocean debris. Information will be available at the gallery desk on local organizations that focus on reducing, reusing, and recycling plastic on Hawaii Island. Kramarz notes that local businesses who sell goods that recycle plastic or provide sustainable alternatives to plastic are welcome to contact EHCC to arrange making information on their products available to gallery visitors.
Space will be given to the creative impulse as well: During the final two weeks of the exhibition, well-known local artist Ira Ono will lead a group to collect debris that they will use to create artwork for display in next October’s Trash Art exhibition, which will have a theme of masks.
In addition, on Dec. 11, noted artist Ken Little, whose exhibition “Tight Hide” was shown in the EHCC gallery during June and July 2021, will offer mask-making workshops to the public utilizing collected debris as a medium. The masks will temporarily adorn the new EHCC fence and, if pandemic conditions permit, will be worn by an EHCC contingent in Hilo’s 2022 Pride Parade.
This exhibition is possible due to the assistance of Kona Trans, which has loaned EHCC a 20-foot container to facilitate the process of collecting, exhibiting, and disposing of the debris.
For more information, visit EHCC online at ehcc.org, call 961-5711, or visit the gallery at 141 Kalakaua Street. Current hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday-Friday, and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.