Plastic Heart: Surface All the Way Through

Art Museum at the University of Toronto, January 13 – March 20, 2021

Ahead of the promise of a nation-wide ban on single use plastics, this experimental exhibition examines plastic as art material, cultural object, geologic process, petrochemical product, and a synthetic substance fully entangled with the human body. The exhibition includes new commissions, historical and contemporary artworks that relate to plastic as a politically-loaded material, and investigations into the paradoxes of plastic conservation in museum collections. It also features data visualizations of a study conducted by the Synthetic Collective that provides a first-ever snapshot of post-industrial microplastics pollution on the shores of all the Great Lakes. This exhibition links scientific and artistic methodologies to show how arts-based approaches to thinking and working can make viable contributions to environmental science and activism.

Plastic Heart mobilizes practices of institutional critique and proposes an alternative method of exhibition development and presentation that addresses ecology and sustainability in content and form. This exhibition seeks to stimulate viewers to be active subjects and works to challenge the artist’s complicity within capitalist-colonialist models of exhibition making and experiencing. By acknowledging plastics as both lubricants of artistic, gallery, and museum practices and also as ‘wicked problems,’ the exhibition undertakes an auto-critique as an essential component of its making.