Ocean-themed artwork made from recycled plastic to be unveiled at the National Museum of Scotland
The artwork Bottled Ocean 2123, which imagines the state of the oceans 100 years into the future in an immersive, undersea landscape crafted from recycled plastic, has been installed at the National Museum of Scotland.
The installation, created by the artist George Nuku with the assistance of around 400 people including museum visitors, staff and volunteers from youth and community groups across Edinburgh, will be unveiled to the public next month in the exhibition, Rising Tide: Art and Environment in Oceania (12 August 2023 – 14 April 2024)
The artwork will address humanity’s unsustainable relationship with plastic, highlighting its impact on the natural environment and asking audiences to rethink their relationship with it.
Artist George Nuku said:
“Plastic is a fascinating material. We think of it as new, with all the things we use it for. But, in fact, when you think about how it is made, from material created during the Earth’s ancient processes, that simple plastic bottle is in a way one of the oldest things around. And if you think about it that way, like an ancestor, then maybe you can start to think about treating it with respect instead of throwing it in the ocean. With the help of hundreds of local people, we’ve taken a pile of trash and made something beautiful.”
Groups involved in creating the artwork included the Welcoming, an Edinburgh based charity supporting migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, as well as students from Edinburgh College of Art and children from Granton Youth, and Pilton Youth and Children's Project.
Dr Ali Clark, Senior Curator Oceania and the Americas said:
“We’ve really enjoyed and appreciated working with George Nuku on the installation of Bottled Ocean 2123, and with the many local people and volunteers who have helped with its installation through our community outreach work. It makes a fantastic, thought-provoking artwork for the exhibition and we look forward to people’s reactions when it opens next month”
The exhibition will delve into the most important and pressing issue of our time, humanity’s damaging relationship with planet Earth. This is felt especially deeply in Australia and the Pacific Islands where sea levels are rising due to climate change and the oceans are filling with plastic.
This exhibition considers our relationship to the natural environment through contemporary responses to climate change and plastic waste by Indigenous Australian and Pacific Islander artists. It will also host the first display in Europe of a set of five kimono which make up an artwork entitled Song of Samoa, by internationally renowned artist Yuki Kihara, newly acquired by National Museums Scotland with the support of Art Fund.
Examples include work by master fisherman Anthony C Guerrero, who uses historic weaving techniques to make contemporary baskets from plastic construction strapping that is found littering Guam.
Rising Tide also features historical material from National Museums Scotland's collections, such as spear points from the Kimberley region of Western Australia made by Aboriginal men from discarded glass bottles. A recurring theme throughout the exhibition, these spear points demonstrate that Indigenous peoples in Oceania have always innovated, using materials found in their environment to make cultural objects.
Rising Tide: Art and Environment in Oceania is part of Edinburgh Art Festival, taking place between 11–27 August 2023.
The exhibition is supported by a programme of events including a series of morning curator tours in August which take place before the museum opens to the public.