Guest writer Jasmine Baines shares her takeaways from Mandy Barker’s talk

Posted on: February 22nd, 2024 by mlpEditor

On 19th February 2024, artist Mandy Barker delivered a poignant online talk on her evocative photography of marine plastic debris.

Introducing herself, Barker explained that she began photographing mass accumulations of plastic to draw attention to something that has become commonplace: litter on our beaches. Barker talked us through her projects, spanning a career laden with global recognition.

A number of her works capture plastic on a black background, arranged to mimic the natural world it is invading – dolphin pods, jellyfish, even plankton – reflecting how plastic permeates, altering nature’s very building blocks. Nurdles, for example, absorb oceanic toxins and are then consumed by wildlife, thus polluting fish and birds. I was shocked by the incessant, all-encompassing nature of plastic dominance that Barker’s work foregrounds.

Barker’s work has a scientific grounding, and her presentation reflected this. After attending a talk by a scientist that detailed the plastic-laden stomach contents of a 30-day-old albatross chick, Barker was shocked that this was not common knowledge. Determined to assist, she has worked closely with scientists since.

In 2012 Barker joined a scientific expedition sailing from Japan to Hawaii. Trawling across the debris field, they tracked plastic waste and rafting organisms still circulating from the Japanese tsunami a year earlier. Her emotive images emit the urgency her lived experience has instilled within her to raise awareness of the dangers of marine plastic pollution.

Emulating the Edward Degas quote, “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see”, Barker’s message was one of raising awareness – interestingly, she targets children, capturing Smartie lids, bath toys, and action figures of Shrek, Hello Kitty, and Mickey Mouse, speaking the globally transferable language of childhood.

A member of the audience echoed my thoughts when they queried if it would be more appropriate to target industrial leaders, responsible for causing, and surely correcting, the most damage. My mind wandered to the effects of instilling anxiety amongst children, potentially making them feel unjust responsibility. Barker responded simply that both audiences are crucial. And by educating children they will consume less, and place pressure on bodies wielding the power for large-scale change. As her work has been published in fifty countries, including within the school curriculum, Barker is certainly achieving her goal to educate and influence consumer choices.

When asked at the conclusion if the oceans can be cleaned, Barker explained we must first halt the stream of debris – “if a bath is overflowing, tackle the tap before you mop the spillage”. The awareness Barker raises is the first step – hopefully those in power are listening.

Plastic Ocean

Posted on: February 21st, 2024 by mlpEditor

In this recording of an online talk, we explore a photographic artist’s response to the worrying state of our oceans today.

Oceans are essential to life on earth. They cover more than 70% of the planet’s surface, regulate the climate, and supply the oxygen we need to survive. But every year, more than 8 million metric tons of plastic enters our oceans, affecting marine environments, biodiversity, over 700 different species, and ultimately human health.

For more than 13 years, artist Mandy Barker has created different series of work to try to engage new audiences with the harmful effects of marine plastic pollution. Captions alongside Mandy’s work detail the ‘ingredients’ of the plastic objects photographed, list brands, or provide descriptions about locations and countries and what was recovered there. The aim is to provide the viewer with a realisation of what exists in our oceans. It is hoped that raising awareness of the scale of plastic pollution that is affecting our oceans, through the passing on of these facts combined with scientific research, will ultimately lead the viewer to want to make change and take action.

Mandy writes:

“Art alone cannot change the world. But by bringing attention to marine plastic pollution in this way, it is hoped my work will help inform, and raise awareness about the overconsumption of plastic and the wider issue of climate change, and in doing so encourage a wider audience to want to do something about it.”

George Monbiot in Conversation with Sarah Bridle

Posted on: August 21st, 2023 by mlpEditor

One of our most fearless voices on nature, climate change and the environment, George Monbiot’s new book, Regenesis: Feeding the World Without Devouring the Planet considers a way to grow more food with less farming and transform our relationship with the Earth. Through discoveries about fertility, perennial grains and new ways of growing protein and fats, George demonstrates how cutting edge thinking and tiny lifeforms could save the planet and provoke a regenesis. A passionate and eloquent speaker, George is committed to working with others to defend the natural world he loves and counts Greta Thunberg, Robert Macfarlane and Yanis Varoufakis amongst his many fans.

Presented by Manchester Literature Festival in partnership with Manchester Lit & Phil.

 

TO BOOK TICKETS: visit the event page on HOME’s website

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