Arts & Culture

Arcadia Earth: As Confronting As It Is Beautiful

The newly opened pop-up installation is an immersive, interactive look at our environmental impact that aims to raise awareness of the need for sustainability.
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Courtesy of Arcadia Earth

With alarmingly little time to correct hundreds of years of environmental damage, the theme on everyone’s mind is (or should be) sustainability. Let’s face it: the human race has collectively made a lot of mistakes, and now things are coming back to bite us. Deadly heatwaves and polar vortexes now return every year like clockwork, removing the shock value they once had. We consume too much and then carelessly toss everything soon after, sending waste across the world to countries that no longer know what to do with the massive accumulating pile. The planet is bursting at the seams with trash, and wildlife is dying at alarming rates because of it. Many have seen the video of a turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nose that inspired much action and debate, but the issue goes far beyond that, with items like plastic bags and aluminum also causing significant harm when they enter natural environments. Humans are facing a clear call to take responsibility for our actions and how we hurt our world, and Arcadia Earth aims to help visitors do just that. 

The exhibition is one of many in the recent wave of pop-ups that combine an art museum with humans' natural sense of curiosity and need to touch things, making it interactive and immersive. But beyond serving the multisensory, hyper-visual needs of an Instagram-saturated culture, this experience is a bit different: it has a social agenda. Arcadia wants to bring awareness to the urgency of living as sustainably as possible to help our planetary home survive for future generations.

Many of the installations comprise discarded materials or just plain trash, but the artists have managed to use these less-than-ideal art supplies to create visually stunning environments that feel like tiny, magical worlds. Discarded objects create mobiles hanging from the ceiling, old glass bottles recreate the ocean’s surface as seen from beneath the water, and thousands of discarded plastic bags create a rolling, textured surface. According to creator Valentino Vettori, the installation contains the same amount of plastic bags that consumers in the state of New York use every minute, totaling a staggering 44,000. With this only being a single state's use, viewers can sense the urgency upon thinking about how many bags the world at large must use in a period of time much shorter than a visit to the exhibit. While the photos may be stunning, they're equally sobering.

The team of artists spent months collecting materials to reuse from around the city. Vettori, an Italian experimental installation artist and industrial designer based in New York, has a mission to change the way people interact with space, or rather, create a way for consumers to interact with space. Vettori has partnered with Oceanic Global, an oceanic conservation group, for this project. By playing to contemporary tastes in visual culture and adding an urgent call for sustainable action, hopefully the exhibit will help to spark further discussion surrounding climate change, both in New York and around the globe.

The Arcadia Earth installation is on view at 718 Broadway until February 2020. Learn more and book a visit here.

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