Brighton Museum launches first online gallery dedicated to the oceans

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Our Plastic Ocean by Mandy Barker

Our Plastic Ocean, by international award-winning photographer Mandy Barker, addressing the current global crisis of marine plastic pollution, will be the first online show opened by Brighton Museum & Art Gallery.

Bird’s Nest: From the series Soup © Mandy Barker / courtesy Impressions Gallery

The show will be on display as part of the new Ocean Blues website launched by the museum dedicated to exploring the environmental threats to our oceans, the importance of research into our seas and some of the Sussex environmental heroes and organisations dedicated to supporting them.

Coinciding with National Marine Week 2020, Our Plastic Ocean the exhibition will be available to be viewed online only for 12 weeks. The exhibition was to have been on show in Brighton Museum but following the closure of the venue following the lockdown, it has been moved online.

Photographer Mandy Barker collects debris from shorelines across the world and transforms them into powerful and captivating images. At first glance, her images are reminiscent of sea creatures and corals suspended in a dark void beneath the sea, but closer inspection reveals a more disturbing reality.

From footballs to fishing nets, cotton-buds to coffee-cup lids, Barker highlights the incongruous plastic items now ubiquitous in our seas. Currently, eight million tonnes of plastic end up in the world’s oceans every year and if these trends continue, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050.

From accompanying scientists on an expedition from Hawaii to Japan, tracing the debris of the 2011 Tsunami, to a voyage on board Greenpeace’s Beluga II to the Inner Hebrides, Mandy Barker has followed a trail of plastic pollution across the globe. The images resulting from these expeditions have become some of the most recognisable visual commentary on marine plastic pollution.

Our Plastic Ocean spans a decade of Barker’s work including the series Soup, meticulously detailed composite images of discarded plastic objects; Albatross revealing 276 pieces of plastic found inside the stomach of a 90 day old albatross chick; and Beyond Drifting, which sees Barker trace the footsteps of nineteenth century botanist John Vaughan Thompson who collected plankton specimens, the ocean’s most basic life-form.

The exhibition also features notebooks and journals documenting Barker’s voyages and research.

Barker said; “For the past decade, I have researched and documented the impact of plastic waste in the oceans, combining art and science to raise awareness. I hope to inspire positive action in tackling this increasing environmental challenge which is of global concern”.

Our Plastic Ocean is an Impressions Gallery touring exhibition curated by Angela Sheard.

BMAG Creative Programme Curator Jody East said: ”Our museums are intimately connected to the sea. Objects in the museum collections reflect generations of people living off the sea, enjoying the sea and using the sea for health benefits. We will use our collections online to highlight how oceans are threatened by human intervention, such as plastic pollution, industrial overfishing and chemical contamination. Working with our specialist partners we hope to show you that many people are trying to combat the ocean crisis and ensure it is protected for future generations. We can all do our bit and are all in this together.”

Cllr Marianna Ebel, joint chair of the Tourism, Equalities, Communities & Culture Committee, said: “We are proud to launch Our Plastic Ocean as part of our new Ocean Blues website which is part of our ongoing work to raise awareness of the biodiversity emergency.

Barker’s images are both rich in detail and hard-hitting in subject, exploring an urgent and timely issue.

“As a seaside city, we are all too aware of the effects of plastic waste on our marine environment. We are currently exploring how our Single Use Plastic Policy, which aims to reduce the use of plastic in the city, could be adapted tackle to growing problem of PPE waste.”

“As is often the power of art, this exhibition reminds us of the importance of looking after our beaches, and we hope it will help inspire all of us to focus on maintaining our seafront as an enjoyable outdoor space in our city.”

Notes to Editors

About Mandy Barker

Mandy Barker (Hull, UK, 1964) is an international award-winning photographer whose work involving marine plastic debris has received global recognition. Barker’s work has been published in over 40 countries including; National Geographic, TIME Magazine, The Guardian, The Financial Times, Smithsonian, The New Scientist, The Explorer’s Journal, UNESCO, The British Journal of Photography, FOAM Magazine, GUP, and The RPS Journal. She has exhibited internationally from Inner Mongolia, China, to the United Nations Headquarters, including the Aperture Foundation in New York, the Victoria & Albert Museum and Photographers’ Gallery in London, and the Science & Technology Park in Hong Kong.

Barker was shortlisted for the Prix Pictet Award SPACE 2017, the world’s leading photography award for sustainability and is a recipient of the 2018 National Geographic Society Grant for Research and Exploration. She has spoken internationally about her work at Stanford

University, California; the Science and Technology Park in Hong Kong; and was the opening keynote speaker for the EuroConference GlobalCapital Sustainable & Responsible Capital Markets Forum in Amsterdam in 2018. In May 2019 she will travel with a team of scientists to Henderson Island, a remote, uninhabited Pacific island which has the highest density of plastic waste anywhere in the world.

About Impressions Gallery

Impressions Gallery is a charity that helps people understand the world through photography. The Gallery collaborates with photographers and organisations nationally and internationally to commission, exhibit and publish photography. Our work with new emerging photographers and often-overlooked artists cements and builds their careers. Established in 1972 as one of the first specialist photographic galleries in Europe, Impressions has grown to become one of the UK’s leading independent venues for contemporary photography. We are located in the heart of Bradford, UNESCO City of Film. We work with local communities and young people to make photography accessible to all through our formal and informal education. Impressions is funded by Arts Council England as a National Portfolio Organisation and supported by Bradford Metropolitan District Council.

About Brighton Museum & Art Gallery

Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, part of Brighton & Hove City Council, is one of Britain’s oldest public museums. Located in the Royal Pavilion Estate at the heart of the city’s cultural quarter, its collections showcase arts and crafts from across the world and history from Ancient Egypt to modern Brighton.

We are currently preparing the museum for re-opening in August 2020.

Please see our website for latest news on opening dates.

Admission fee payable, Brighton & Hove residents free

Royal Pavilion Gardens, Brighton BN1 1EE Tel 03000 290900