As designers, we feel compelled to use our talents to raise awareness about the environmental issues facing the world today. Our first series of eco-art installations exposed one second of US consumption of seemingly disposable single-use plastic items. Yet plastics never biodegrade. Our “Urban Interventions,” as these large-scale installations are known in the art community, have been very effective in gaining attention. Today we are focusing on man-made ingredients prevalent in common products that we put in and on our bodies — many of which have already been banned overseas.
ABOVE: ASSEMBLY OF WATERSHED. BELOW: Watershed AT THE DUMBO ARTS FESTIVAL
Below: watershed at "the Age of stupid" worldwide movie premier
above: actress gillian Anderson and musician Moby. below: watershed installed at the dumbo arts festival
below: watershed at the figment art festival
below: take-less at the dumbo arts festival
take-less at the figment art festival
below: 2663 urban tumbleweeds on display at the burning man art festival.
below: choose better products on display at the figment art festival
We at MSLK are a bit nutty about the environment. In 2007 we began an initiative on the environmental issues facing the world today. Our goal was to raise awareness among the general public and encourage our clients to think about green alternatives as well. With this in mind, we began collecting things we use every day and ultimately toss. It's amazing what you uncover when you take a closer look at the things around you.
Our research estimates that each second, 2,663 plastic shopping bags, 1,500 bottles of water, and 2,629 take-out meals are consumed in America. Although these acts of consumption can feel very innocent, even natural in the moment, their impact over a minute, a day, or even a year is staggering. MSLK sought to expose these outrageous facts and create a series of art installations to stop people amid their everyday activities and challenge them to reflect on their consumer behavior.
Because it's hard to visualize the enormity of the problem, we worked with advocates all around NYC to reclaim refuse for installation. At the time NYC didn't have a recycling program in place for any of these materials. As a result, many people were happy to participate in the collection and compilation of 2,663 plastic shopping bags, 1,500 water bottles, and take-out containers. MSLK constructed chains and signage made out of these materials. The flexible format allowed the installations to be effective in various environments—from industrial loading docks to more rural settings. Furthermore, throughout the installations, we integrated informational signage featuring facts on how reuse is not only better for the environment, but better for your pocketbook.
The impact was staggering. Our work has reached over one million people in over 63 countries through their installations at the Figment Art Festival, DUMBO Arts Festival, and at the global premiere of the film "The Age of Stupid." These "Urban Interventions," as they've been coined, have been covered in several books, magazines, and television programs including Discovery, Current TV, and NY1. As a bonus our work has been recognized with accolades from the design community, including an AIGA (RE)design Award for sustainable design. In 2011 Watershed was selected by the AIGA for their prestigious Making the Case Awards measuring design effectiveness. This series has now inspired us to look at the ingredients in the products we expose our bodies to every day.