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Plastic Heart: Surface All the Way Through

blue glove on pellet samples

Works by:

Christina Battle, IAIN BAXTER&, Sara Belontz, Leticia Bernaus, J Blackwell, Amy Brener, Hannah Claus, Sully Corth, Heather Davis and Kirsty Robertson, Aaronel deRoy Gruber, Fred Eversley, Naum Gabo, General Idea, Kelly Jazvac, Woomin Kim, Kiki Kogelnik, Les Levine, Mary Mattingly, Christopher Mendoza, Tegan Moore, Skye Morét, Meagan Musseau, Claes Oldenburg, Meghan Price, Françoise Sullivan, Catherine Telford-Keogh, Lan Tuazon, Marianne Vierø, Joyce Wieland, Nico Willliams, Kelly Wood

Photo of waste such as cigarette butts being sorted by members of Synthetic Collective
Shirt made from purple silicon with objects pressed into it
Black and white photo of Eva Hesse in her studio holding up a plastic sheet

Plastic Heart: Surface All the Way Through

September 8–November 20, 2021

University of Toronto Art Centre

Organized by the Synthetic Collective

Plastic Heart is an experimental exhibition that examines plastic as art material, cultural object, geologic process, petrochemical product, and a synthetic substance fully entangled with the human body. The exhibition includes new commissions, historical and contemporary artworks that relate to plastic as a politically loaded material, and investigations into the paradoxes of plastic conservation in museum collections. The exhibition acknowledges plastics as both lubricants of artistic, gallery, and museum practices and also as ‘wicked problems,’ made even more complex by their use and discard in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Plastic Heart mobilizes practices of institutional critique and proposes an alternative method of exhibition development and presentation that addresses ecology and sustainability in content and form. Seeking to stimulate viewers to be active subjects, the exhibition challenges received modes of art-making and viewing that are deeply dependent on fossil fuels. It also features data visualizations of a study conducted by the Synthetic Collective that provides a first-ever snapshot of post-industrial microplastics pollution on the shores of the Great Lakes. This exhibition links scientific and artistic methodologies to show how arts-based approaches to thinking and working can make viable contributions to environmental science and activism.

Tour Schedule

Canadian Cultural Centre Paris, November 16, 2022–March 24, 2023

Exhibition Resources

A DIY Fieldguide for Reducing the Environmental Impact of Art Exhibitions
Press Release
Exhibition Teaser
Exhibition Brochure
Large-Format Text
Exhibition Documentation
Media Coverage

Dialogue 1: Plastic, Pollution, and Policy Change

Wednesday, September 15, 6pm–7:30pm EDT
With Mark Fisher, Vanessa Gray, Michelle Murphy, and Chelsea Rochman, with moderator Heather Davis
Watch the recording

Dialogue 2: Plastic Pollution in the Laurentian Great Lakes: Industry and Invisibility

Wednesday, October 6, 6pm–7:30pm EDT
With Ian Arturo, Dr. Sara Belontz, Tegan Moore, Mary Mattingly, and Alice (Xia) Zhu, with moderator Kelly Jazvac
Watch the recording

Dialogue 3: The Plastic Conservation Conundrum: Preserving Plastics in Museum Collections and Plastics’ Durability in the Environment

Wednesday, October 13, 6pm–7:30pm EDT
With Courtney Asztalos, Dr. Patricia Corcoran, Roger Griffith, Sherry Phillips, and Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza, with moderator Kelly Jazvac
Watch the recording

Dialogue 4: Sustainable Museums

Wednesday, October 27, 2pm–3:30pm EDT
With Suzanne Carte, Maya Ishizawa, and Sarah Sutton, with moderator Kirsty Robertson
Watch the recording

Virtual Spotlights

Looking Ahead to Plastic Heart: Surface All The Way Through
What is a Wicked Problem? Introducing the Synthetic Collective
Turning the Tables on Research: A Q&A with Kristen Bos of U of T’s Technoscience Research Unit 
The Stories We Tell Ourselves Are Killing Us
Embracing Enough: Video Tour of Plastic Heart
In Conjunction with Light: The Plastics Exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario, 1967

Our Supporters

We gratefully acknowledge the operating support from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Toronto Arts Council, and the Ontario Arts Council, with additional project support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Jackman Humanities Institute.





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