Background: “Becoming Plastic” is my senior capstone project, created as a nonlinear storytelling interactive experience on plastic pollution. Inspired by the works of environmental artists, interactive and educational museum exhibitions, and interactive websites, I implemented a combinational approach that has rarely been explored by other artists in order to help Americans better grasp the grim reality of plastic pollution and feel compelled to take action against it.
Process: After gathering scientific research on plastic and plastic pollution, I determined the most significant information was in regards to plastic disposal and recycling, ocean pollution, and the negative effects of plastic pollution because the practices and effects of the plastic industry are unknown to most Americans. From there, I created a large plastic sculpture, as well as three smaller sculptures using objects that represent their respective categories: ocean pollution, recycling debunked, and single-use plastics versus alternatives. All plastic was collected from public places as well as from my personal use. In addition, I captured and collected video and images that correlate to these categories.
Originally, this project was designed as an interactive museum exhibit in order to directly involve visitors, but due to COVID-19, it was translated digitally into a website. The original plan involved interaction with the plastic sculptures as controllers containing RFID chips, programmed with Arduino and Processing, that triggered playback of informational videos when the sculptures were placed on a pedestal with an RFID reader installed inside. Also, originally intended, the audience was to be invited to contribute their opinions through polls, meant to encourage discussion. In addition to the physical exhibit, an interactive website version was planned in order to reach a wider audience.
Result: This interactive website, created in Wix due to time constraints, is now the current manifestation of this project due to the necessity of becoming a virtual project. On the main page, visitors are invited to choose a plastic sculpture, which when hovered over, turns the object to maintain interactivity, and leads them to its correlating informative web page when clicked on. Displayed as a scrolling narrative, visitors can choose their next sculpture at the bottom of each page. Overall, the result achieves the same principles as originally planned – an educative, artistic, and interactive experience in which the audience learns about plastic pollution in addition to being presented solutions in order to promote change regarding their opinion and use of plastic. Visitors of the site have described it as eye-opening, informative, and interesting. In addition, this project refined my skills in coding, design, user interaction, fabrication, and installation planning.