The dumpster full of glowing garbage out front of Switzerland's Gewerbemuseum sets the stage for what's inside -- an art exhibition of works both poignant and comical, all made from discarded plastic bags.
"In addition to their use for packaging and carrying things, [plastic bags] have been adapted for a wide variety of other purposes. They reflect consumer behavior, advertise status, reinforce identity, damage the environment, and narrate our cultural history. At the same time, they are a symbol of our global society," the museum writes in its description of the show, titled "Oh, Plastiksack!" and running through October 7.
The works in the show include paintings, photographs, and installation and performance pieces, all exploring "the plastic bag as an everyday item and as a focus for art and design."
The dumpster installation outside, titled "Plastic Garbage Guarding the Museum," contains some 5,000 plastic bags collected from local residents, inflated like balloons, and illuminated from within. It was created by light artists Luz Interruptus, an anonymous Spanish collective whose previous glowing work has protested light pollution in Madrid, expressed concerns about nuclear power, and criticized the sorry state of Madrid's public fountains. In a 2011 piece reminiscent of "Plastic Garbage Guarding the Museum," the collective floated inflated plastic bags above Warsaw to raise awareness about recycling.
Other works in the Gewerbemuseum exhibit include a somber portrait of garbage pickers (above) made by artist Dodi Reifenberg in a very painterly style, but using plastic bags and transparent adhesive tape; Berlin-based multimedia artist Ida-Marie Corell's "ID(E)A," a room-sized dress made from 555 blue IKEA bags (below); and an assortment of puffy plastic-bag furniture.
As a recycling initiative, "Oh, Plastiksack!" may be just a drop in the bucket of the billions of plastic bags discarded each year, but as a way to get people thinking differently about something they rarely notice, it has the potential to make a much bigger splash.