V&A Dundee

Visiting Plastic: Remaking Our World

Andrew Batchelor of Dundee Culture recently visited our current exhibition, Plastic: Remaking Our World. Read on to find out about his experience.

Written by: Andrew Batchelor

I recently went to visit Plastic: Remaking Our World, the new exhibition at V&A Dundee and what a fantastic experience it was! The exhibition was visually beautiful and relayed a very important message involving the use of plastics and why we should recycle, reuse, and repurpose plastic, instead of turning it into waste.

When you walk towards the exhibition space, you are greeted by a huge sign which reads “Plastic”. The sign, made up of discarded and broken plastic objects in all different shapes and sizes, was made in collaboration with ScrapAntics and it is very eye-catching.

Plastic Lab

To begin, I headed into 'Plastic Lab', a free area of the exhibition where visitors can learn a bit about different types of Plastic and get a taste of what can be found inside the exhibition. There are also free drop-in talks and workshops here every Wednesday.

Kalpa

A silhouette of a man watching a large projection.
Watching the short film 'Kalpa'

Walking into the exhibition, you are greeted to a beautiful short film, 'Kalpa', by Asif Khan Studio, which brings you on a journey on how plastics are made and the impact they have on the world. The film is divided into two parts, the first showing you a journey from over two billion years ago up until the discovery of oil, and the second part looks at the use of plastics today, how they are made, and what consequences the material has on the world’s marine ecosystem.

Synthetica

After the film, I explored 'Synthetica', a room which showcases objects dating back to the nineteenth century. Some of my favourite objects included an old 1930s telephone and a circular radio from the 1940s which looked very modern for its time. The radio looks like an ornament that would be placed in a modern-day living room which I thought was fantastic.

Plasticene

I then headed over to 'Plasticene', and this was my favourite section of the exhibition, it demonstrated the importance of plastics and how much we use it every day, and this is where I learned the most. For instance, I saw an illustration that shows you how often most people use objects made from plastic throughout the day, such as turning your phone on in the morning, to switching your light off at night, and it showed me how much plastic I use at home – it was very fascinating to learn.

A man looking at an infographic poster on the wall titled 'How much plastic is in your home?'
'How much plastic is in your home?'

'Plasticene' also featured some very cool objects on display. There is a couch from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the iconic red and white ball chair by Eero Aarnio which was featured in the promotion for the exhibition, were both fantastic to see in person.

The inclusion of the Monsanto House of the Future was another great part of the exhibition too. It featured a model of the house that was once part of Disneyland – and its story featuring the use of modern plastics really fit within the narrative of the exhibition. I really enjoyed watching the film alongside this too.

The initial stages of the Covid-19 pandemic are also covered in this section of the exhibition as the use of plastics in PPE equipment was vitally important for protecting people from the virus.

The Beach

A beach littered with lots of plastic objects including a plastic cone, ropes and plastic bags.
The Beach

Walking into the side room of 'Plasticene' I was greeted by a reconstruction of a beach featuring many plastic objects which are often washed up on Scottish shores, it was surprising to see so much! Many of the objects on the beach were collected during beach cleans by local schools, and seeing the extent of plastic that gets washed up on our beaches was so shocking.

Re-

A man standing in looking at a table with objects including a bag and plastic dinosaur.
Exploring the final room 'Re-'

Heading into 'Re-', the final room of the exhibition, I began looking at some of the objects on show there such as the blue tiled water fountain and plastic bottles which had really fit well within this final section. There is a strong message about rethinking, recycling, reusing and repurposing plastics. It was also interesting to learn the amount of recycling the planet does, breaking down stats into different countries and continents.

Plastic Pledges

Heading out back into 'Plastic Lab' and you are met with a wall full of Plastic Pledges where the museum encourages you to make your voice heard - it's a great idea and if you're unable to visit, you can share your own Plastic Pledge here.

The variety of things on offer in Plastic: Remaking Our World is fantastic and makes for a great day out. Learning things I never knew was something I enjoyed, and it was fitting for this exhibition to be on show during COP27 as well.

The importance of plastics and the importance of recycling, reusing, and repurposing them really made this latest exhibition one to remember. I would encourage anyone to go and see it for themselves.

Plastics: Remaking Our World is on now until 5 February 2023. Visitors aged 18 and under get free entry.