Washed Up Artist Statement
Washed Up is an environmental installation and photography project that transforms the international garbage washing ashore on Mexico’s Caribbean coast into aesthetic, yet disquieting, works. During the course of this project I have identified plastic waste from fifty nations on six continents, all found along a single stretch of coastline in Sian Ka’an, Mexico’s largest federally-protected reserve. I collect this international debris, arrange it by color and form and use it to create site-specific installations. Conflating the hand of man and nature, at times I distribute the objects the way the waves would; at other times, the plastic takes on the shape of algae, roots, rivers, or fruit, reflecting the infiltration of plastics into the natural environment. Beyond creating a surreal or fantastical landscape, these installations mirror the reality of our current environmental predicament. The resulting photo series depicts a new form of colonization by consumerism, where even undeveloped land is not safe from the far-reaching impact of our disposable culture. Although inspired by the work of Andy Goldsworthy and Robert Smithson, Washed Up speaks to the environmental concerns of our time and its vast quantity of discarded materials. The alchemy of Washed Up lies not only in transforming a trashed landscape, but in the project’s potential to raise awareness and change our relationship to consumption and waste. As part of my work, I am also currently creating a Museum of Garbage on location in Sian Ka’an, which will include installations and photographs from the Washed Up series. It will be accompanied by an arts and education program for the children of Punta Allen, the local community in Mexico where I have spent the past 5 years working on this project. We will explore the issue through upcycling lessons, plastic pollution research, a beach clean and other interactive activities. Activism through art and education is an integral part of the Washed Up project and is my way to raise awareness regarding this global Scourge.
Alejandro Durán – Biography
Alejandro Durán was born in Mexico City in 1974 and lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He is a multimedia artist working in photography, installation, and video. His work examines the fraught intersections of man and nature, particularly the tension between the natural world and an increasingly overdeveloped one. He received an MA in Teaching from Tufts University in 1999 and an MFA in poetry from the New School for Social Research in 2001. Durán received En Foco’s New Works Award and was included in the Bronx Bienial of Latin American Art in 2012. He has exhibited his work at the Galería Octavio Paz at the Mexican consulate in New York and he is currently Hunter College’s Artist-in-Residence for 2014-15. His solo show, Washed Up: Transforming a Trashed Landscape, was exhibited at Hunter’s East Harlem Art Gallery in 2015. Publications include Land Art, published in France in 2013, which also includes Andy Goldsworthy, Robert Smithson, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Olafur Eliasson, and Marina Abramovic, among others. Art & Ecology Now was published by Thames & Hudson in 2014 and will include images
from Washed Up, as will Unexpected Art, a publication by Chronicle Books published in 2015. Notable press includes a photo essay published in Germany’s Die Zeit, as well as a feature article in New York’s El Diario/La Prensa and mentions in New York Daily News and The New York Times. Durán has taught youth and adult classes in photography and video since 2002 and has worked as a museum educator at The Museum of Modern Art and The International Center of Photography. He is also a video producer whose clients include MoMA, The Museum of Arts & Design, and Columbia University.