Thursday, 8 June 2017

Beyond Drifting: Imperfectly Known Animals


Mandy Barker
Sirius Arts Centre
Until Sun 02 July  
Plankton form a diverse group of microscopic marine organisms living in the water column, not able to swim against the current; they exist in a drifting, floating, state.
 In this series by Mandy Barker, unique ‘specimens’ of this animal species relate to the pioneering discoveries made by marine biologist John Vaughan Thompson in Cobh and Cork Harbour during the 1800’s.   
Presented as microscopic samples, objects of marine plastic debris, recovered from the same location, mimic Thompson’s early scientific discoveries of plankton. The work represents the degradation and contamination of plastic particles in the natural environment, by creating the perception of past scientific discoveries, when organisms were free from plastic. 
The enveloping black space evokes the deep oceans beneath. Presenting new ‘specimens’, created from recovered debris, serves as a metaphor to the ubiquity of plastic and the anthropocene, encapsulating in miniature the much larger problem of an imperfect world. 
Current scientific research has found that plankton ingest micro plastic particles, mistaking them for food, and at the base of the food chain they are themselves a crucial source of food for many larger creatures. The potential impact on marine life and ultimately humankind itself is currently of vital concern. In terms of plankton, and of action, we are ‘Beyond Drifting’, and must bring into focus these ‘Imperfectly Known Animals’. 
This series of work by Mandy Barker was born out of a residency that she undertook at Sirius Arts Centre in 2014. Some of the work is presented as a science book from the 1800’s, that, as well as reflecting the current situation regarding the organisms’ intake of plastic, also subtly includes the original writing, descriptions, and figures recorded by Thompson in his research memoirs of 1830, entitled, ‘Imperfectly Known Animals’. The book uniquely captures our changing times along with both past and present research.  
In November 2016 ‘Beyond Drifting: Imperfectly Known Animals’ was shortlisted for the prestigoius Prix Pictet 2017, the world's leading photographic award in sustainability.

This art exhibition is supported by Cork County Council and the Plastox Project (at NUI Galway) which is funded by the Marine Institute under the framework of JPI Oceans.

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