Art exhibition on plastic waste will showcase Environmental Agency’s work

BACKLIT Gallery has announced a collaboration with artist Joshua Sofaer and the Environment Agency (EA) that will see an interdisciplinary exhibition on plastic waste being curated.

The showcase will use art to trigger critical discussions surrounding environmental issues, according to the EA, with the centrepiece of the display, a plastic sculpture of a body weighing 98.66kg, representing the amount of plastic waste generated per capita in the UK annually.

Regulated plastic wasteThe sculpture will be cast from a mould made out of plastics deposited by the general public.  In order to collect this material, the gallery space will be transformed into an imitation ‘factory’, in which visitors will be able to drop off their refuse ready for sorting. Throughout the duration of the exhibition, the EA will periodically regulate the processes undertaken, providing an insight into their operations. The ‘factory’ will also be screening a film that follows the average day of a Regulated Industry Officer for the EA, detailing the means through which they regulate and manage waste.

There will also be other events running throughout the exhibition’s run. These include panel discussions with scientists, artists, and regulators on the hidden environmental impact of art-making; viewings of films unpacking the artists’ work; and community and family workshops.

‘Regulated Exhibition’ will be running from 1 October to 5 December at the BACKLIT Gallery in Nottingham. The live body cast will be carried out on 30 October in view of the general public, with the moulding of the plastic sculpture taking place on 20 November.
Of the project’s conception and his involvement in the show, Joshua Sofaer commented: "In 2019 I had the opportunity to shadow members of the Environment Agency Regulated Industry team as they conducted their checks on industrial sites, including one of the largest plastic recyclers in the UK and a giant pork pie factory.

“I also visited small ‘end of life’ workshops that depollute cars, materials recycling facilities, and illegal waste sites. It was an eye-opening experience.

“Then the pandemic struck, and the world changed. But one thing that hasn’t changed, and in fact is getting worse, is the amount of waste that we produce.

“Single use PPE, which is saving lives, has only made this problem greater. This exhibition wants to raise some questions about the work of the Regulated Industry team and the scale of the plastic waste problem in the UK, including the waste produced by the creation and exhibition of art. I’m delighted to be working with BACKLIT and the Environment Agency on this project and looking forward to engaging with people across Nottingham.”

Mark Haslam, Environment Manager for the Environment Agency added: “We have partnered with the BACKLIT Gallery in Nottingham and artist Joshua Sofaer to produce ‘Regulated Exhibition – a plastic human’ as part of our community engagement. Much of the plastic waste produced by individuals in the country ends up being sorted, processed, and disposed of at sites regulated by the Environment Agency.

“The focus of the exhibition is to engage local communities to consider plastic usage through a sustainability lens. It also provides an ideal opportunity to raise awareness around the role the Environment Agency plays in protecting the environment through its regulation.

“This is the first time we have worked with the arts sector in the East Midlands to highlight environmental issues and show how the Environment Agency regulates and manages waste. We’re sure the exhibition will be highly successful in increasing awareness of how we all need to reduce, reuse, and recycle more of our waste and resources.”

Matthew Chesney, BACKLIT Director and Curator, says of the exhibition: “BACKLIT is delighted to work with the Environment Agency to explore very important conversations around waste produced by the gallery and the environment.

“We are thrilled to work with one of UK’s most exciting artists, Joshua Sofaer whose previous projects have engaged and ignited the public to come together and be accountable for the artwork. This is a chance to use art to enable people to take part and have crucial conversations on how they can make their environment a safer and more enjoyable place.”