Alvaro Catalán de Ocón: Plasticity

Feb 17—May 26, 2024

Alvaro Catalán de Ocon is a leading innovator in a growing movement of industrial designers and artists whose works critique the failures of material culture while offering generative and poetic alternatives. His Plastic Rivers project employs Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic waste that is recycled into yarn and woven pixel by pixel using a hand-tufted technique into large maps using Google Earth panoramas of the Ganges, Niger, Yangtze, and Indus endangered river systems. Over the past decade, Catalán de Ocon’s PET Lamp project has engaged community weaving collectives in Australia, Chile, Colombia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Japan, and Thailand to make use of PET bottles. Over time, the project has unfolded as an anthropological study of different indigenous weaving traditions, highlighting the role that craft knowledge can play in preserving community. The 22 PET lamps in this exhibition are strung together into a single fixture that communicates this shared vulnerability and exuberant diversity.

Catalán de Ocon’s beautiful works illuminate an ugly truth about plastic contamination and the global commercialization of waste. Only a small fraction is recycled, and most of the leftovers end up as debris in nearby rivers that, like huge highways, carry the waste to the oceans where no one takes responsibility. “The recycling of single-use plastic is not the solution,” says Catalán de Ocon. “The solution lies in being responsible users of the resources at our disposal and thinking of future-ready solutions.”

Special thanks to GAN and PET Lamp.