Cast Away

Artworks by VIVITA children inspired by the photography of Mandy Barker

The exhibition “Cast Away” organised by VIVITA, an international network of creativity accelerators for kids and youths, presents a selection of children’s artworks inspired by the photography of Mandy Barker. This international photography project was set in motion in November 2019 with the opening of Mandy Barker’s solo exhibition “Sea of Artefacts” in Fotografiska Tallinn and it inspired children from VIVISTOPs around the world.

Inspired by the artist’s research and visual interpretations of ocean plastic waste, VIVITA organised a series of local workshops to engage its members with the issue of plastic pollution, its scale and impact. Children from Estonia, Lithuania, the Philippines, Japan, Singapore, USA and New Zealand collected trash from the beach, sea and ocean, as well as domestic plastic waste. They used it to create assemblages and collages which were documented by experienced photographers. In their experimentation with plastic waste and its transformation into cherished pieces of art, children reexamined their everyday habits and became more conscious of the origins of plastic waste.

With more the 150 artworks created in the span of two years, there will be more exhibitions to follow in the coming months in Lithuania, Japan, USA, New Zealand and the Philippines.

For its local workshop, VIVITA Estonia collaborated with the photographer Iris Kivisalu in order to achieve the compelling portraits of children wearing masks they handcrafted out of domestic plastic waste. Read more on the making of the masks here. Masking is a ritual of transformation that allows us to transcend our everyday realities, imagine ourselves as supernatural creatures, claim our belonging to a society that bears wisdom about the future. In the same way the portraits of Hedvig Avloi, Uku Arne Arendi, Vint Narro, Saaga Talving, Emili Mai Valdaru and Eliisabet Sõmer signify their belonging to an ever-growing community of children who wish to be heard and actively partake in environmental causes that directly affect their future.

“The aim is to involve children in projects that encourage them to think about how the smallest decisions and actions can have great impact. The clean environment and conscious consumption are among the issues we have been focusing on in our creativity studios over the years. That’s why it seemed logical and worthwhile to connect this exhibition with World Cleanup Day,” Mari-Liis Lind, head of VIVITA creativity accelerator for children and youths

The team of World Cleanup Day joined us for the exhibition opening and spoke about their mission and activities. The Estonia-born initiative is the largest global civic movement in history. During the campaign, people from around 180 countries clean up trash from their local beaches, forests and roads. Since 2019, during the cleanup in Estonia, attention has been directed primarily to micro waste, such as microplastics and cigarette butts. One of the focus areas is the involvement of the younger generation and raising their general awareness on the topic. This year, World Cleanup Day falls on September 18.

“One of the keys to alleviating the problem of waste is smart consumption. Even more importantly: raising awareness. This is especially true with regard to the younger generation. People’s interest in the environment and its preservation should be encouraged from a young age. The younger a person begins to understand the impact of their consumption behaviour on the environment, the more likely it is that the amount of waste and its burden on nature will decrease in the future,” Elike Saviorg, head of World Cleanup Day Estonia

The exhibition “Cast Away” is open from 20.09 to 7.10 in the Fotografiska café. Special thanks to their restaurant’s head chef Peeter Pihel and his team who prepared tasty plastic-looking snacks especially for the exhibition opening, drawing the attention to the amount of microplastics contained in the food we consume everyday. The rhubarb lemonade offered by the café added a pinch of festivity to the event.

Exhibition photos: Kazuya Kazita (US), Kotaro Aoki (JP), Iris Kivisalu (EE), Fumio Yamamori (JP), Lisa B. Doyle and Rosa del Carmen Parada Lopéz (NZ), Monika Požerskytė-Kalvelė and Vaiva Abromaitytė (LT), Therese Heng (SG), JP Alipio (PH)

Mandy Barker is an international award-winning photographer committed to the documentation of marine plastic waste and its catastrophic impact. She places high importance on scientific research and factual data, piecing together scientific and artistic narratives and thus making relevant information accessible to a larger audience. Highly aesthetic and painstakingly exquisite, her photographic collages draw the viewers in only to then expose them to the harsh facts behind the visuals. For more information visit www.mandy-barker.com.

Text and photos: VIVITA Estonia

Kids and Youth Creativity Accelerator