Every year, we are producing over 350 million tons of plastic waste and while only a small portion of this waste is recycled, most of it enters our rivers, seas, and water supplies. Plastic has insinuated into the deepest veins of our natural world and has even entered our food chain. According to 2017 data from WWF, we are eating a Lego brick every month.
“Up the river without a paddle” is a phrase depicting a dangerous or troubling situation faced unprepared and without any resources to solve an issue - in this case, the climate crisis. Although we are trying to do our best by taking personal measures such as reducing our plastic waste or choosing eco-friendly products, in the grand scheme of things, we are utterly unprepared with no contingency plan. How does this make us feel and what can we do to better prepare to face this problem?
As we can interfere in the cycle of pollution entering our waters via land by removing it from beaches and preventing it from entering the water in the first place, I invited artists and the public to join us at Štrand for a beach clean-up to start a civic action. By building a tender, momentary and yet sustainable community among those who wish to see the Danube clean, we started a conversation about environmental issues surrounding the river. A conversation formed around a “beach clean-up” aimed at bringing participants together in a collective action while directly being involved in the Danube’s pollution issue. The goal of this event was not only to have a conversation about environmental crises but also show the impact of small civic actions.
Participants were randomly allocated to groups of 3 or 4 and each group had an artist who guided the clean-up and discussion. To initiate the conversation between group members, a shortlist of questions or topics was handed to artists as a guide and group actions were documented by video recordings and photos. At end of the clean-up, short interviews were held on the groups’ cleaning sites with the participants to reflect on their conversations and experience.
Later, these interviews were displayed in the following exhibition titled, Up the River Without a Paddle, and a public talk about climate crises and the involvement of art was held with the local curator Sonja Jankov, artists Danijela Matović, Marija Kozomora, and Mia Džidara.