E a r t h P o e t i c a
On February 6th, 2022, Beverly Barkat opened her newest solo exhibition in Israel at the Gottesman Family Israel Aquarium, Jerusalem. The exhibition, Earth Poetica, centers around a huge sphere built from wrought iron with 180 panels that shine and sparkle in the light. This globe, created by Barkat, holds the earth's landmasses and seas and oceans delineated with predominantly emerald greens and aqua blues, confetti pinks, burnt oranges and earthy browns - a perfect depiction of a precious jewel encrusted world. And yet on approach, when looking deep within the sphere, one can see that the jeweled colors are in fact the plastic waste that is thrown on the ground and tangled in the waves of our oceans and seas.
Over the past three years, Beverly Barkat has been picking up plastic litter from home, bringing it back from trips abroad, urging her family and friends to be attentive as to what is placed around them and asking them to send their plastic waste to her. Barkat's studio, located in downtown Jerusalem, has been close to overflowing with wrappers, cartons, bottles and bags from Israel and overseas. As more people heard about her installation, boxes of plastic waste were arriving on her doorstep. "I was haunted by the images that I saw on a television documentary about plastic waste" says Barkat.« There were impoverished children searching for 'treasure' among piles of plastic waste on the beach. The image was so strong and has stayed with me. Is this the beautiful earth that we are leaving for our children? Is this our legacy – planet Earth covered by plastic waste? Plastic pollution is one of the critical problems we face today. As an artist, I express my emotions and views visually. I wanted to make the beauty of planet Earth visible while at the same time showing very clearly the problem for which we are all responsible."
Earth Poetica is both personal and collective aesthetic questioning by the artist about our present and future time on planet Earth. It is an unequivocally original and masterly visual translation not only of the scale of the plastic pollution, but also of the interconnectedness of humankind, its fragile relationship with nature and the vulnerability of humankind itself.
"Earth Poetica is a timely artistic response to the global issue of plastic pollution" comments Raffaella Frascarelli, Scientific Director of the prestigious art foundation in Rome, the Nomas Foundation. Frascarelli is also the curator of the exhibition. "Earth Poetica is a contemporary artwork of an immense aesthetic value, which can, however, also be understood as a 'site of moral agency', as an invitation towards reflection and towards different acts in the present and future". Through openings in the work, visitors can peek into the globe, and a powerful meeting occurs between the exterior and the interior. Just a scratch beneath the surface, easily identified plastic everyday items are clearly visible – cast in epoxy and framed by natural split bamboo pieces.
As the piles of plastic began to pile up, Barkat learnt more about this pressing issue. According to the Israel Ministry of Environmental Protection, each person in Israel alone creates about 1.7 kg of trash per day. This amount is equal to 51 kg waste per month and 612 kg waste per year. A study by the MacArthur Foundation found that in 2025 the oceans will contain a ton of plastic for every ton of fish, and by 2050 the amount of plastic will surpass that of fish due to the huge proportion of the 10 million tons of plastics finding their way to the oceans. The amount of plastic in the oceans causes ecological damage amounting to $13 billion a year. The threat of mass amounts of plastic doesn’t stop here as many ‘micro-plastics’ are found in the water, fish, drinking water, human tissues, human fecal waste and more. These findings present facts showing that plastic presents a threat to public health around the world.
In Barkat’s Earth, there are 5 plastic islands in the middle of the oceans echoing the plastic patches that can be found today in the North and South Atlantic, the North and South Pacific and the Indian ocean. "Because about 60% of the plastic islands are composed of refuse from fishing nets, the islands on my globe are also made of fishing nets" says Barkat. Additionally, the artist notes that her patches are proportionally larger than their actual area on the globe as "the islands continue to grow all the time".
There can be no more fitting a place to exhibit this installation than at the Gottesman Family Israel Aquarium, Jerusalem.
"I hope that Earth Poetica engages the many diverse visitors to the aquarium and in particular children who need to know about the future of our planet. The power to effect change will be in their hands, and the solutions as well. Earth Poetica allows the viewer to see both sides of earth – its beauty together with the ‘mess’ we are creating with our plastic pollution. When we see the mound of garbage directly alongside the marine animals who are impacted by our waste, the problem that we are causing is undeniable. My hope is that this artistic experience affords a complete picture of the problematic reality". The installation, together with a story board made up of different plastic components that show ‘the making of’, creates an impressive, traveling work, and illustrates the power of art to engage and inspire.
Alon Levy, Director of Israel Aquarium: "Since The Gottesman Family Israel Aquarium was established, we have been working to increase awareness of the damage that is taking place to the marine environment and our need to reduce the amount of waste we produce which harms tens of thousands of marine life and animals every day. I was delighted to welcome Beverly Barkat’s Earth Poetica into the Aquarium. The new installation presents an innovative and unique perspective of this problem and I hope will inspire each of us to be more aware and to make change in our daily habits with regards to plastic pollution.”
The exhibit will be presented in Jerusalem for about 6 months. At this time, negotiations are being held concerning continuing exhibitions in central cities around the world, ending its journey at the World Trade Center, New York.