Art exhibition on plastic waste will showcase the work of the Environment Agency


BACKLIT Gallery has announced a collaboration with artist Joshua Sofaer and the Environment Agency (EA) to organize an interdisciplinary exhibition on plastic waste.

The showcase will use art to spark critical discussions of environmental issues, according to EA, with the exhibit’s centerpiece, a plastic sculpture of a body weighing 98.66 kg, representing the amount of plastic waste generated per capita in the UK each year.

The sculpture will be cast from a plastic mold deposited by the general public. In order to collect this material, the gallery space will be transformed into an imitation “factory”, in which visitors will be able to deposit their waste ready to be sorted. Throughout the duration of the exhibition, the EA will periodically regulate the processes undertaken, giving an overview of their operations. The “factory” will also show a film that tracks the average day of an industry official regulated for EA, detailing the means by which they regulate and manage waste.

Other events will also be organized throughout the exhibition route. These include round tables with scientists, artists and regulators on the hidden environmental impact of artistic creation; film screenings unpacking the work of artists; and community and family workshops.

‘Regulated Exhibition’ will take place from October 1 to December 5 at the BACKLIT gallery in Nottingham. The live cast will be performed on October 30 for the general public, with the plastic sculpture cast taking place on November 20.

Regarding the design of the project and his involvement in the show, Joshua Sofaer commented: “In 2019, I had the opportunity to observe members of the Regulated Industry team of the Environment Agency as they carried out their checks at industrial sites, including one of the UK’s largest plastic recyclers and a giant pork pie factory.

“I also visited small ‘end of life’ workshops that clean up cars, material recycling facilities and illegal waste sites. It was an eye-opening experience.

“Then the pandemic struck and the world changed. But one thing that hasn’t changed, and is actually getting worse, is the amount of waste we produce.

“Single-use, life-saving PPE has only made this problem worse. This exhibit aims to raise some questions about the work of the Regulated Industry Team and the scale of the plastic waste problem in the UK, including the waste produced by art creation and exhibition. I am delighted to be working with BACKLIT and the Environment Agency on this project and look forward to engaging with the people of Nottingham.

Mark Haslam, Environment Officer for the Environment Agency, added: “We have teamed up with BACKLIT Gallery in Nottingham and artist Joshua Sofaer to produce a ‘Regulated Exhibition – A Human in Plastic’ as part of our community engagement. Much of the plastic waste produced by individuals in the country ends up being sorted, treated and disposed of at sites regulated by the Environment Agency.

“The aim of the exhibition is to encourage local communities to consider the use of plastic for sustainability. It also provides an ideal opportunity to raise awareness of the role the Environment Agency plays in protecting the environment through its regulations.

“This is the first time that we have worked with the arts sector in the East Midlands to highlight environmental issues and show how the Environment Agency regulates and manages waste. We are convinced that the exhibition will go a long way in raising awareness of how we all need to reduce, reuse and recycle more of our waste and resources.

Matthew Chesney, Director and Curator of BACKLIT, said of the exhibit: “BACKLIT is excited to work with the Environment Agency to explore some very important conversations about gallery waste and the environment.

“We are delighted to be working with one of the UK’s most exciting artists, Joshua Sofaer, whose previous projects have engaged and ignited audiences to come together and be responsible for the work of art. It’s a chance to use art to allow people to participate and have crucial conversations about how they can make their environment safer and more enjoyable.

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