Plastic Kinship

2023, FLOW, Lore-Degestein Gallery, Susquehanna, PA
Mason jars, tap water samples, image captures of microscopic plastics found in drinking water, waste granite countertop

Shown below are images of microplastics in tap water captured under a microscope at NATURE Lab in Troy, New York. The work was a collaboration with a water testing project run by Sarah Beth Cadieux, with Kathy High and Ellie Irons.

Plastic Kinshipis a physical manifestation of the process of testing drinking water for microplastics, which becomes a novel kind of Anthropocene ritual revealing the inseparability of human-made materials and the natural world. Researchers use Ball mason jars to collect water from local source waters and city faucets. (For this installation, I collected my own tap water samples.) Scientist Sarah Cardieaux then removes the organic matter present in the sample and "dry" them in Petri dishes, which allows plastic particles to be visible under a microscope. Their preliminary findings show that microplastics are present in source waters and water treatment is not filtering out a variety of microplastics and synthetic fibers. These particles' presence extends after human use, making their way into the Hudson River, and ultimately into the ocean; research from 2017 estimates that the Hudson Valley watershed contributes 300 million microplastic fibers to the Atlantic Ocean per day.

Microplastics have been identified in drinking water across the country, and as such, we will have to accept a new idea of self and bodily relations with(in) plastic ecologies. Perhaps, given the intimacy we must now share with them, might we consider a kinship with plastics?

Troy, NY + NYC