Source: https://www.dropbox.com/s/c4ebpwy4cwnqhqp/HighresScreenshot00008.jpg?dl=0

‘Museum of Plastic’ is one of the Creative Commissions supported by the British Council exploring climate change through art, science and digital technology.

In this interview, Leo Mercer, Cooperative Innovations tells us more about his project as part of the United Nations climate conference, COP26, -  it’s about sharing ideas, taking positive action together and an online Museum of Plastic set in 2121, to tell a new story about plastics, one which helps us meaningfully frame our actions today as a vital part of a century-long story. 

Welcome to the Museum of Plastic


What is the Museum of Plastic? 

The Museum of Plastic 2121  is an imagined future museum, available on the Curatours platform from November 2021. The project is commissioned by the British Council and is a creative response to the 26th United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP26) which took place in Glasgow in November. 

Museum of Plastic invites a multi-disciplinary understanding of plastics, combining history, science, and speculative futures. 

From our point of view in 2021 things feel bleak - many have anxiety about the future, doubting the impact of the individual action. When designing this experience, we consulted with scientists and activists to realistically forecast a positive future. Our intention is for people to walk away from visiting the museum with hope and practical information about their own role in a positive future.   

What can you see inside the Museum of Plastic?

Once inside the museum, audience members will have avatars and can walk around the museum or can join a virtual tour guide and explore the space. Allowing the audience to listen and learn from a range of experts and storytellers.

Visitors can explore several spaces to discover the history of plastic, learn about the science behind it, understand the industry's role and get a sense of its impact on our environment. The content of the museum will be represented as 3D objects that can be picked up and examined in detail, 360 images, spatial infographics and specially commissioned Tilt Brush murals. 

From the very start of this project, we have been working closely in partnership with two South African organisations: Greenpop, an environmental NGO, and BazArt, an urban art organisation. 

After introducing them to the power of VR, through using Tilt Brush and they, in turn, introduced us to the inspiring world of South African mural artists. This translated into the artwork created becoming the concept art for the museum design itself, and their hands-on experience as environmental stewards and activists has fed into the museum's content and ethics too. 

You can see this great artwork inside the Museum of Plastic, where you will be able to walk around inside the commissioned mixed reality artworks by South African mural artists. They are a combination of real-world murals and Tilt Brush pieces offering the visitor a way to step into the mind of the artist. This commissioned work also included community involvement and workshops as part of the Eden Festival of Action 2021. 

Eden Festival of Action is an environmental action gathering combining practical ecosystem restoration work such as tree planting with workshops, talks and activities. In line with the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration beginning in 2021, which is advocating for the halt of global ecosystem degradation, this event aims to promote a new culture of restoration (of landscapes and self), highlighting its importance when trying to undertake the planet’s biggest issues such as climate change. In 2021, the event saw almost 100 people from across South Africa joining to get their hands dirty and get active (not anxious) about the future of our planet. 

Baz-Art is non-profit creative organization based in Cape Town, South Africa. Baz-art’s vision is to showcase the power of street art and its ability to transform communities and individuals on a micro and macro scale. Baz- art’s mission is based on 3 pillars: education, social inclusion, and artistic development.

The Greenpop Foundation NPC is an award-winning registered non-profit organisation headquartered in Cape Town, South Africa.

We work to restore ecosystems and empower environmental stewards through forest restoration, urban greening, food gardening, and environmental awareness projects across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Greenpop was founded in 2010 and has since planted over 150,000 trees and inspired over 140,000 active citizens across South Africa, Zambia, Malawi, and Tanzania.

Can you tell us more about your artworks?  

Virtual reality interpretation of physical art mural  ©

Museum of Plastic

One of the newly commissioned artworks is called “The Choice” by Cheeky Observer, it’s a visual representation of the concept of duality; inherent in the choice we face when it comes to plastic, waste and sustainability.  The two penguins are a mirror of each other. One is caught inside a piece of plastic - the byproduct of humanity’s uninformed choices (or lack of options) when it comes to consumption and waste management. The other, striving to meet its fellow, symbolises harmony, sustainability, potential for the survival and health of the other.

Why the Museum of Plastic?

We hope Museum Of Plastic 2121 will foster; understanding, optimism, activism and work towards a positive “reimagined” future. The reason why we build social spaces and cooperative games is to create opportunities for people to work together toward positive change. We're really excited by the opportunity to bring this work to a global conference about something so important. 

The importance of climate change? 

“It’s just 1 plastic bottle”, said 8 Billion people. 

We’ve known for a long time that we’re in the midst of a climate emergency and yet the inertia of our collective action is confusing. Cooperative Innovations are software developers we don’t make physical products so our perceived impact is relatively small but pre-pandemic we did travel a fair amount to conventions and tradeshows all over the world and so we pay into a carbon offsetting scheme. Beyond that we feel a responsibility to take positive action where we can to reduce our impact on the world. So we started to think about the projects we’re making and while Curatours is not intended to replace physical visits to museum sites, it offers the opportunity for audiences to access "dream destination" visits to museums while thinking sustainably about their travel.

What should we look out for from Museum Of Plastics?

The Museum of Plastic is perfectly at home on the Curatours platform which isn’t constrained by time or space. It will be available free to download and can be accessed via phone, desktop or VR headset for an amazing immersive experience from November 2021.

Museum of Plastic is supported by the British Council’s Creative Commissions programme which are a series of creative commissions exploring climate change through art, science and digital technology. 

Leo Mercer, Cooperative Innovations

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