Plastic Earth: Israeli Artist Beverly Barkat Transforms Litter Into Giant Installation (VIDEO REPORT)
Beverly Barkat addresses global scourge of plastic pollution in Earth Poetica, scheduled to be exhibited in Jerusalem and New York
It has been said that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, and in the case of Beverly Barkat that trash has been transformed into a monumental work of art.
For her large-scale installation Earth Poetica, the Jerusalem-based artist turned plastic pollution into a huge globe depicting the planet and its continents.
“The plastic waste is important because that’s the whole story behind the work,” Barkat told The Media Line during a recent studio visit. “How do we change how we deal with plastic waste? ‘We’ is everyone – the whole world.”
Surrounded by heaps of bags and colorful packaging, Barkat’s studio space looks like it has been hit by a tsunami of plastic.
The renowned artist, whose work has been exhibited around the world, spent three years collecting, sorting through, and cutting up plastic litter from all over the world.
Once completed, Earth Poetica will be a giant sphere made from metal, bamboo, soybean-based epoxy resin and plastic detritus.
From the outside, the panels shine like jewels and are reminiscent of stained glass, with their plastic constituents barely visible. But from the inside, the unsightly reality comes to light in the shape of netting, plastic bags, shredded containers, bottles, and other common household goods.
The stark contrast between the jewel-like glass and the refuse is intentional; Barkat plans to leave openings in the globe so that people can view both sides of the panels.
Earth Poetica will be exhibited at the Gottesman Family Israel Aquarium in Jerusalem beginning on February 6 and will then be shown in other cities around the world, before finding its permanent home in New York.
The idea of fashioning an Earth out of plastic arose after Barkat was asked to create an artwork for the lobby of the World Trade Center complex.
“This art piece for me needed to be so fundamental with an impact on those people, those decision-makers that come in and out of the World Trade Center,” she noted. “And that’s how I thought that I needed to do something with the problem of plastic waste.”
Born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1966, Barkat immigrated to Israel with her family in 1976 when her parents, also artists, were offered teaching positions at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem.
Barkat herself would later go on to study jewelry design and metalwork at Bezalel, as well as glass-blowing in the Czech Republic. Her artistic training also included intensive studies in drawing and oil painting at the Jerusalem Studio School under artist Israel Hershberg.
She married Nir Barkat, the former mayor of Jerusalem and current member of Knesset who is considered to be a frontrunner as a potential replacement for Binyamin Netanyahu as head of the Likud party, and together they have three daughters.
One of the goals of Earth Poetica, Barkat said, is to highlight how pollution is a problem that affects us all.
“We have an impact on other countries and other countries have an impact on us,” Barkat said. “It’s not only us, it’s not only me and it’s not only our generation. We need to take responsibility on the heritage and what we’re leaving for the next generations.”
Environmental scientists have long said that plastic pollution is a global emergency. In fact, a report by the Environmental Investigation Agency, an international nongovernmental organization, released just last week found that marine plastics will outweigh the total mass of fish in the world’s oceans by 2040, equal to some 700 million metric tons of garbage.
Water currents already have caused plastic debris to accumulate into rapidly growing garbage islands in several oceans. The most famous of these is the Great Pacific garbage patch, which floats between Hawaii and California and covers 1.6 million square km (620,000 square miles), an area roughly three times the size of France.
“We are suffocating ourselves,” Barkat said. “We are doing this to ourselves. How do we change something that will release this future?”
“I don’t have a solution; I’m raising a question for awareness, for dialogue,” she continued. “I’m not giving an answer for how to solve the problem. For that, there are other people. I’m not in that world; I’m in the art world. I’m working on creating art.”
Earth Poetica will be on display at the Gottesman Family Israel Aquarium in Jerusalem starting on February 6 for about six months.