Parade of pink plastic snails on Miami Beach offer recycling message. Photo by Phillip Pessar via Flickr
Dozens of giant pink snails have overtaken Miami Beach this December as an environmental message about recycling by the REgeneration Art Project that's gone bad. The fanciful huge mollusks marching along the shoreline and parks are made of recycled molded plastic. But they've been vandalized with graffiti, leaving police wondering if it's an anti-eco statement or just an irresistible target for taggers.
On display since late November in time for the Art Basel festival in town, the snails will move on (not-so-slowly) as of January 3. The organizers, the Cracking Art Group, have previously installed similar events in Paris, Milan, Prague, and other cities, "designed to inspire a community-wide conversation about the importance of recycling and its environmental impact," according to the international artistic collective, working through Galleria Ca d'Oro for the installation.
But eight of the 45 recycled oversized gastropods have been damaged and one was even thrown into Biscayne Bay. Gloria Porcella, co-owner of the Italian gallery that recently opened in Coral Gables, which backed the art initiative said its first foray into the US has been disastrous. But perhaps the defacement has actually created even more attention.
Apparently created with a minimal carbon footprint, the big snails are intended to inspire residents and visitors "to play with our cities, to mentally and physically - rebuild them," or REgenerate them - into more healthy environments - leaving a sustainable mark.
The snail, a symbol of nature created from recycled, artificial material, with a minimal carbon footprint, were chosen to convey three metaphors: the first relates to the critter carrying its home on its back, the second connects to hearing, since the spiral looks similar to the human ear, and the last refers to technology, with the symbol "@" (called a 'snail' in Italian) ubiquitous in email communication. And what about endangered snails?
The European art collective has previously created bright colored meerkats, turtles, penguins and dolphins perched along highways and in supermarkets in an effort to change art through social and environmental statements. The use of plastic materials, they say, "evokes a relationship between natural life and artificial reality." Making plastic artworks subtracts the substance from toxic destruction which can devastate the environment.
Despite the positive response to the fuchsia snails and desire for them to make a permanent home in Miami Beach, the literal snail-bashing found someone upending them and even punching one. No one in Rome or Paris where they were previously displayed was so disrespectful. But has it actually made anyone think twice about recycling?