Plastika Alaska Andy Hughes

Midnight Coca Cola on Board RSV Norseman, Alaska, 2013
C-Type Digital Print

Project funders included:

Anchorage Museum Association, Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation, Giles W. and Elise G. Mead Foundation, Leonard and Tannie Hyde, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Endowment for the Arts, North American Marine Environment Protection Association, Ocean Foundation, Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Rasmuson Foundation, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Surdna Foundation, Wells Fargo, The William Randolph Hearst Foundation.

Plastika Alaska

In June 2013, as part of the Gyre project, an international team of scientists, artists and educators launched an expedition to study marine debris in southwest Alaska. Howard Ferren of the Alaska SeaLife Center led the expedition, along with scientist Carl Safina, the founding president of Blue Ocean Institute. Andy Hughes, Mark Dion, Pam Longobardi, Karen Larson traveled with the team aboard the the R/V Norseman along the the remote Alaskan coastline.

The expedition also included representatives from the Smithsonian Institution, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Geographic, Alaska Marine Stewardship Foundation, Anchorage Museum and Ocean Conservancy.

Plastic Alaska

Hallo Bay, Alaska, 2013

Artist Commentary 
Mark Dion ©2019

'Imagine a beach in a place where no one cleans up; a location absent of the chamber of commerce, public sanitation workers, Girl and Boy Scout troops, environmental do-gooders and desperate scavengers. Year after year the ocean belches the Anthropocene on the shores. Most of this is plastic, and most of that is discarded fishing gear and other artifacts of maritime industries and of course household refuse. This stuff migrates beyond the tide line or gets tangled and fixed in the beach’s log jams and rocks. The wind blows the styrofoam and lighter material deep into the forests, salt marshes and coastal planes. The high tide wrack line contains tens of thousands of bottle caps, cigarette lighters, plastic straws, and bottles. Much of the material here is broken down and too small to see in a causal glimpse. This is the really precious stuff. Within a decade the beach is covered in two meters of debris anchored so firmly in net and line that not even a hurricane can dislodge it. This island is real'.

Plastika Alaska

Hallo Bay, Alaska, 2013

'Oceanic expanses have long been perceivable as overdetermined cultural signs in various geographic contexts and historical periods, and today’s fraught rhetoric about this liquid sphere is no less complex and conflicted'.

Extract from the Essay Ocean Semiosis
By Abigail Susik © 2013 Abigail Susik


Plastika Alaska

Afognak Islands, Alaska, 2013

Plastika Alaska

UFO Plastic Floater, 2020
Inkjet Print

Plastika Alaska

Plastiglomerate on board RSV Norseman, Hallo Bay, Alaska, 2013

Artist Commentary
Pam Longobardi // Artist and Activist // ©2019

'I name this object ‘Plasteroid.’ It is a fine example of the subset of mysterious objects that are formed in various unknown processes of ‘volcanization’ or incineration. As with most specimens of this nature, it is an attempt to make plastic ‘disappear’ by making it unrecognizable. The incineration process itself does even more harm than the plastic on its own can: it releases toxic airborne chemicals, and as is evident, the plastic blob still survives in a new mutated form'.


Plastika Alaska

Tangled rope on board RSV Norseman,
Hallo Bay, Alaska, 2013

Plastika Alaska

Axe, Blue Fox Bay, Alaska, 2013

Scientist  Commentary
Carl Safina ©2019
Author, Ecologist, Broadcaster


'In this open landscape, where nature creates no straight lines, one saw-cut stump represents every possible intrusion. An axe meets its chopping block, its iron head closed to all other ideas, bloodied with the thrust of the only work it knows: to reduce the world. The thin leading edge of the wedge of us is all it takes. It takes all. But how will we learn to take what we need while leaving more than what we’ve taken?'



Plastika Alaska

Gore Point, Alaska, 2013

Scientist Commentary
Howard Ferren ©2019
Gyre Project Expedition Leader

'Object of Curiosity Visitation from a world less natural than the beach on which it stands. Totemic. Emissary of a lineage that carpeted the landscape with synthetic remnants of life and habits. Enduring as the great pyramids. We made this and are satisfied with its presence in lands of remote grandeur as well as the cutters in our cluttered streets. My brain cross-wiresbetween the facts of science, our technical achievements, the desperate global impacts of our wasteful habits, and the creative use of material for art and interpretation. Facts are sufficient; science unveiling; art inspirational. We know enough to see that this is wrong. We cannot blend the synthetic with the natural and assume all is in balance. The Emissary stands vigil and awaits change. If not, more will come ashore and the balance tip further toward the untenable'.


Plastika Alaska

Foam ball on board RSV Norseman, 2013

Plastika Alaska

Reworked Foam ball on board RSV Norseman, 2019
Inkjet print with wax, nurdles, beach sand, copydex glue

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