Get ready to get your Plasticon on. Carolina Performing Arts will be hosting the Plasticon festival this Saturday, April 21 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. in order to raise awareness about the environmental impacts of plastic bags.
Staff writer Krupa Kaneria talked to Alexandra Ripp, a post-doctoral fellow who oversees the DisTIL fellowship program, about the festival, the art that will be featured during Plasticon and the importance of sustainability.
The Daily Tar Heel: What is your role at CURRENT ArtSpace + Studio?
Alexandra Ripp: CURRENT is a new space that is a part of Carolina Performing Arts. In addition to having performances at Memorial Hall or Hill Hall, now we have this new space. We are using it to program work that is more participatory and immersive, and in that way, different than some of the more traditional performances that you might see at a more traditional venue like Memorial Hall.
I have been working at Carolina Performing Arts in general as a post-doctoral fellow, and my job has been to oversee this program called DisTIL, which is an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant-funded program, for over four years. We bring four artists, and they come to campus for multiple semesters — two to three years in total, on and off — to work with faculty at UNC on collaborative research. So, it’s about bridging the arts and the academy.
DTH: How did the Plasticon festival start?
AR: Robin Frohardt is one of our artists. She is a visual artist, a puppet maker and a theater director, and all of her work right now is focusing on plastic. She is going to open up an installation storefront in the fall called the Plastic Bag Store. Everything in the store is going to look like it would in a regular grocery store, but everything in it is made out of plastic bags. It’s commenting on the absurdity of how much plastic we use — our crazy consumption and the fact that it’s never going to go away.
Plasticon is the end of Robin’s DisTIL fellowship, and she has worked primarily with a public health professor and two archeologists on campus. She has inspired a lot of work at UNC, and we wanted to have a day where all of the people who are interested in sustainability and art could come together and harness the energy that she has stirred up over the last year. This is the first Plasticon, and I am kind of helping produce it, and the Carolina Performing Arts staff has also been working really hard — as if it were a performance.
DTH: Why are you passionate about recyclable art and this project?
AR: With issues like this that are so serious, the bulk of the messages have this tone of caution and fear. With Robin’s work, there is a lot of humor and raising awareness in a way that is unlike what you might see from climate or environmental scientists. Her art is trying to make us aware about how we live by adding an injection of humor and creativity. That is why I am so passionate about Robin’s work and what she is doing with plastic. I think it is really unique and exciting.
DTH: What kind of art will be featured at this festival?
AR: Robin is making her plastic bag store, so some of the elements of the festival are going to be a part of that store. She has made a plastic museum display, and she has some fun, interactive activities that she has planned with that display.
We are going to have workshops where you can help make plastic bag food for the store. She has a monster that's called the dumpster monster that has been on campus before. It's a 16-foot trash bag monster that comes out of the dumpster. She has a thing called the plastic time machine that shows you what your plastic will look like in the future. It’s actually in Polk Place right now for Earth Day.
She also made a movie that she is going to show about trash consumption. There is a plastic bag, quilt-making station that we are going to have as well. There will be a lot.
DTH: How will Plasticon be structured?
AR: It’s meant to be a community event, and it’s going to be very multi-faceted. There are going to be art-making workshops, tables with info and activities and free food for our local, sustainable eaters. We are having some people present short TED Talk-style discussions about their research on plastic, and then we are showing a 20-minute screening about plastic in the ocean and having a panel session after that. It’s kind of like a half fair, half academic event. We hope that this event reaches both UNC and off-campus populations.
DTH: Why should people come to this festival?
AR: First of all, it's a chance to see the work of a really talented artist. I also think it’s a very exciting convergence of the arts and sciences in a way that you may not always see. Instead of just an art fair or a science fair, this festival is finding the overlap and finding the ways that those two seemingly different disciplines can enrich one another.
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