Washed Up is an ongoing project by Mexican-born, New York-based artist Alejandro Durán that addresses the issue of plastic pollution making its way across the ocean and onto the shores of Sian Ka’an, Mexico’s largest federally-protected reserve. With more than twenty pre-Colombian archaeological sites, this UNESCO World Heritage site is also home to a vast array of flora and fauna and the world’s second largest coastal barrier reef. Unfortunately, Sian Ka’an is also a repository for the world’s trash, which is carried there by ocean currents from many parts of the globe.
Over the course of this project, Durán has identified plastic waste from fifty nations on six continents that have washed ashore along the coast of Sian Ka'an. He has used this international detritus to create his color-based, site-specific sculptures. Conflating the hand of man and nature, at times he distributes the objects the way the waves would or like wind-scattered seed, echoing the organic forms of the surrounding landscape.
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 works 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 converting a trashed landscape, but in the project’s potential to raise awareness and change our relationship to consumption and waste.