Slurp the Soup of the Sea
By Will Wlizlo
A few soup recipes that aren’t typically found on a seafood restaurant’s menu: tomato soup, turtle soup, bird’s nest soup, translucent soup. Maybe those restaurants should start including them, though, because photographer Mandy Barker was able to collect all the ingredients on her last trip to the beach. It’s fantastic what thrives in the sea.
Of course, I’m not talking about actual bird’s nest soup. Barker is making her “soup” from the riches of plastic that bob in ocean’s trash gyres. (“‘Gyre’ is a fancy word for a current in a bowl of soup,” seaborne garbage expert Curtis Ebbesmeyer told Harper’s Magazine’s Donovan Hohn. “You stir your soup, it goes around a few seconds.”)
“SOUP: Bird’s Nest,” the opening image of this post, contains a delicious mix of “discarded fishing line that has formed nest-like balls due to tidal and oceanic movement” and “other debris collected in its path.”
Barker’s tangles of fishing line look like a school of tropical jellyfish caught in a midnight migration. (Or an outfit worn by Björk, for that matter.) The colouring and fragility of the figures make for a beautiful image–until you imagine the world’s living jellyfish replaced by Barker’s artificial ones. As Barker explains in her mission statement:
The series aims to engage with and stimulate an emotional response in the viewer by combining a contradiction between initial aesthetic attraction and an awareness of the disturbing statistics of dispersed plastics . . . which results, ultimately, in the death of sea creatures.
“SOUP: Ruinous Remembrance”
Ingredients; plastic flowers, leaves, stems and fishing line
Additives; bones, skulls, feathers and fish.
Ingredients; red plastic debris.
Ingredients; plastic turtles that have circled and existed in The North Pacific gyre for 16 years.
Additives; ducks, beavers and frogs.
Ingredients; translucent plastic debris.
Ingredients; plastic oceanic debris affected by the chewing and attempted ingestion by animals. Includes a toothpaste tube.
Additives; teeth from animals.
(Plastic’s proliferation is practically a department [read: permanent source of anxiety] at Utne Reader. See our previous writing on it here, here, and here. Also, Donovan Hohn’s book Moby-Dick–based on the aforementioned Harper’s Article–is a fascinating read that tackles the problem of plastic from every conceivable angle.)
Images courtesy of Mandy Barker.
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