SA and UK collaborate on world’s first virtual plastic museum


What will the world be like in 2121? The Museum of Plastic offers a hopeful glimpse of what life could be like if we now tackle climate change. It reflects on the history and future of humanity with plastic and is part of the United Nations Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP26), which takes place in Glasgow, UK. The South African component is co-created by Baz-Art, an NPO specializing in the creation of public engagement through urban art, with the eco-activist organization Greenpop.

Offering a nuanced, sensitive and insightful approach, the virtual museum takes place in the future, rethinking a version of the present where we decide to ban single-use plastics and succeed in curbing the destruction of the climate. Visitors can learn about the history of plastic – its history, science, industry, and impact on our environment. They will learn the importance of establishing a circular economy and discover how the activism and individual action taking place today will lead to positive change in the future.

Baz-Art co-founder Alexandre Tilmans says: “Throughout history, art has been a powerful medium to communicate a message and change the world. We hope this experience engages a global audience and shows people that we can change our future if we act now. This is not your average museum. It includes revolutionary creative controls that bring together art, science and digital technology to create an unforgettable immersive experience.

The initiative is a joint venture of Cooperative Innovations (UK), Greenpop and Baz-Art. Commissioned by the British Council, it presents the work of six South African mural artists: Cheeky Observer, Ellena Lourens, Dirty Native, Silas Ras Moetse, Wayne BKS and Mernette Swartz. Each artist painted a wall mural on the theme of plastic pollution in the real world, which has been digitally inserted into the Plastic Museum on the Curatours platform. Over the past few months, Baz-Art has trained artists to sculpt and paint for virtual reality (VR), and their VR creations are featured online, alongside their murals.

Emma Cooper, Project Manager at Cooperative Innovations, says: “The combination of pixels and paint, the physical and the virtual produced amazing results – when we first presented the project to the public, everyone had mentioned how much they liked the ability to move around in 3D paintings.

Tilmans adds: “With our common future at stake, we cannot think of any problem more urgent than climate change. Above all, this museum takes a positive stance. It is not too late to change our history. The exhibition creates a 360-degree experience that paints a real picture of what is possible.

Currently, plastic pollution threatens biodiversity and marine life, food security, human health and coastal tourism. By 2050, the World Economic Forum estimates that our oceans will contain more plastic than fish. South Africa is one of the worst offenders in the world when it comes to dumping plastic waste into the sea. It is also the 14th largest emitter of CO2 in the world. There is a lot of work to be done to turn the situation around. And it starts with awareness.

Greenpop’s Misha Teasdale explains the current state of plastic pollution in South Africa: “Our relationship with plastic here in South Africa is for the most part pretty unhealthy. It goes at all levels, from politics to producers, retailers and consumers. Significant cultural change is needed in every sector. One of the most glaring challenges is that the external costs of the problem are also more evident in low-income communities, clogging gutters and drains and adding to existing litter in areas where there is already a lack of water. local pride. Plastics move by wind and tributaries and almost inevitably land in our major river systems and oceans. From what I have seen, there is enough motivation in the different sectors to shake things up and find innovative ways to create circular economies, find alternatives to single-use plastics and put in place policies that change unhealthy behavior ”.

Tilmans says: “Our hope is that this museum will fuel a healthy debate. It aims to bridge the gap between local individuals and communities of action to create a culture of activism, optimism and understanding. It is important to note that he brings home what each of us can do. Sometimes these issues seem too important to fix and the situation starts to get desperate. This museum aims to do the opposite. To give each of us the power to be the change we need to see.

The museum’s platform, Curatours, will be accessible via smart devices (cellphones, laptops and tablets) and virtual reality headsets, ensuring that active international citizen groups and virtual experience researchers can easily experience experiences. social experiences based on learning around the exhibition.

The museum has six wings, each with a different environmental theme that corresponds to a period from the 1800s to 2121. The museum’s first wing is scheduled to launch on November 8, with additional wings being launched weekly thereafter.

Speaking about other aspirations for the museum, Tilmans concludes, My hope is to see the Plastic Museum grow and become a global museum, creating more rooms for other countries and artists to join the conversation and realize the impacts of climate change, as well as positive climate action. that we can do all of this to make a meaningful difference.

How to visit the 2121 Plastic Museum

You can visit The Museum of Plastic 2121 through the Curatours app which is available for Oculus Quest VR headsets and Windows PCs.

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