are not censored and have full control over how their work is presented. A year ago, I pulled out of a photographic competition sponsored by a manufacturer of the banned neonicotinoid pesticides, which, according to independent scientists, are killing our bees. After sending them photos of dead bees, my website was suspiciously dismantled. I’m ashamed to admit this had the effect of scaring me off. I think the point I’m making is this: there are people who care about the environment in places like Azerbaijan and China, and Western corporations that are cynically using the arts to clean their image. Artists have to make their own decisions based on their research and their gut. EG: Did you make any connection between Azerbaijan, its oil production, and the objects you were showing? MP: I think the various works make different connections. The grid – Flip flops and Shoes – is as much about the state of capitalist consumption as it is about the material they are made of. I added shoes from Cuba, Tanzania and Sri Lanka to give the piece a global feel. The Chinese flour sack, which made its way via ocean currents to our local beach in West Wales, is a symbol of the
global reach of China and the crate fragments are about the new abstract forms emerging from the ocean. The pebbles held together by melted plastic are perhaps the most literal connection to oil. But our reliance on oil and the dangerous chemical particles that are getting into the ocean food chain from the breakdown of plastic – a bi-product of oil – is a message that runs across all the work and is relevant to all corporations and nations, blindly investing our futures in this destructive commodity. EG: What’s next for you and for Môr Plastig? MP: Ultimately, I’d like to make a Môr Plastig book as I think it would make an interesting document of our times: a kind of contemporary natural history art publication and a nice way of anchoring the project in West Wales. But I still have a barn full of plastic and lots more work to make in this project. I am about to start photographing ‘plastic stones’ that scientists have named Plastiglomerates, which I’ve been collecting from beaches in North Pembrokeshire. I made a cabinet full of them for Venice. Under the lights, they looked like mini asteroids. It was great to watch people’s reactions. They are defining a
new geological era within the Anthropocene, the epoch where man’s impact on nature is greater than Nature itself. A walk on the beach is never the same for me anymore, as I know that almost everywhere there are stones that aren’t really stones at all. Simply lumps of plastic that have taken on the appearance of stones. Recently, a local landscape painter asked me: “Are you not giving these bits of rubbish a bit too much reverence?” At first I was a bit defensive, but then the penny dropped that actually we were doing the same thing. Both of us were making landscapes about the sublime power of Nature but, whereas his paintings are made by his skillful hand, mine are made by nature. All I had to do was take the photographs. —CCQ
Vita Vitale is one of two Azerbaijani exhibitions at the 56th Venice Biennale created by IDEA (International Dialogue for Environmental Action). It runs until 22 November 2015 azerbaijanvenicebiennale.com m-perry.com
p62 Flip Flops and Shoes x14, Mike Perry, 2015 p63 Pink Fragment, Mike Perry, 2015 Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire, Wales p64 (left) Plastiglomerate, Mike Perry, 2015 Newgale, Pembrokeshire, Wales p64 (right) Chinese Sack, Mike Perry, 2015 p65 (left) Shoe 16, Mike Perry, 2014 p65 (right) Shoe 22, Mike Perry, 2014 Playa Santa Maria, Cuba
Venice Biennale interviews: herman de vries, Katerina Gregos, Song Dong, Sean Lynch. As well as conversations with Laura Ford, Sammy Baloji,...