Play Plastic (2017)
Reflexion on Heather Davis essay, Life & Death in the Anthropocene: A Short History of Plastic.
For this video project, I chose to zoom in on a specific part of Davis’ multilayered essay and tried to make connexions with some of my preoccupations around digital culture. As a departure point, I spontaneously worked on a photogrammetry of my 37 years-old sister contemplating her childhood plastic toys.
Heather Davis states that plastic incarnates “the dream of transcendental idealism”. I find this statement very revealing. My colleague David Paquin focused his thesis on the revival of ancient metaphysical dreams of transcendence thought virtual reality (VR). In some ways, this merging of the fields made me consider plastic and VR as a common manifestation of human aspiration to extract itself from the passage of time manifested through decaying matter or limitations of the aging or restricted body.
Another perspective I found fertile was that both mediums were setting up a kind of sealant or barrier against aspects of traditional human experience. Plastic, as a sealant and generically smooth surface, acts as a frontier and diverts our sense of touch from organic and natural physicality. In a similar way, VR does not allow tangible contact with perceived (non-physical) reality.
Prolonging the reflection made me consider my relation to the concept of time in the Anthropocene. The naturally aging body facing the time permeability of plastic (toys preserved in the same cosmetic condition, as they were 25 or 30 years ago) seemed to result in a temporal disconnection between my grown-up sister and her preserved physical environment.
Finally, a more metaphorical frontier seemed obvious with symbols of inaccessibility (Barbie and Ken’s body proportions and the capitalistic way of life) and the proposed switch from natural “aesthetic effect” to a new kind of “sensorial regime” induced by these toys. This seemed to echo part of the digital culture aspiration to fantasize around new aesthetics through VR and the curse of proposing unprecedented sensations and sense of place. Similar to plastic as a reflection of monadic identity and a recalcitrant matter self-excluded from the organic cycle of life, those emerging virtual places are, for now, in the curse of technology in development, mostly experienced individually rather than in a community.