Plastic: Remaking our world part 2

10 May 2023

Back in June 2022, I wrote a blog post about the touring exhibition Plastic: Remaking our world.  At the time the exhibition was on display at Vitra Design Museum.  I was lucky enough to meet with one of the curators, Charlotte Hale, and visit the exhibition when it was on display at V&A Dundee.  Charlotte gave me a tour of the exhibition and explained the small changes that had been made to give it relevance to the local audience. 

The collage of plastics objects at the entrance to the Plastic: Remaking our World exhibition.

The exhibition which explored the inventive, invaluable, and invasive aspects of the use of plastics was made up of a number of sections.  One space which marked both the start and the end of the exhibition was the Plastic Lab where visitors were asked to explore different materials and sort them using the kind of near-infrared light (NIR) spectroscopy system that is used in our recycling systems.  

The Plastic Lab

In this space families and young people were encouraged to respond to a number of questions and creative prompts. 

  •        Rethink: What should the government do about the plastic crisis?
  •        Remind: What changes will you make to your daily life?
  •        Remake: Design your own recycled plastics stool top.
  •        Recycle: Design a new way to use a plastic bottle.
  •        Reduce: What plastic objects do you most despise?
  •        Reuse: Draw your most treasured plastic object.

The colour coded responses were displayed on the wall and were a great way to engage the visitors with the themes of the exhibition, I wonder how people’s responses differed depending on whether they had seen the exhibition before or after they responded.

Questions and answers in The Plastic Lab

Every school in Dundee had had the chance to visit the exhibition.  I was happy to see a group of young people touring the displays with a member of staff.  The children were fascinated by so much that was on display especially MoDiP’s Cockpit canopy which was a key part of their tour.

Sea Fury cockpit canopy, Sydney Camm for Hawker Aircraft, circa 1945-1955. AIBDC : 008190

Other objects on loan from MoDiP include:

Plack picnic ware, Jean Pierre Vitrac for Alfaplac, circa 1977. AIBDC : 007759.  Sputnik jam dish, Mendle Brothers, circa 1957-1959. AIBDC : 003463

Yellow Darn-A-Lite, Darn-A-Lite, circa 1940s. AIBDC : 006352SA. Folding razors, Athos Bergamaschi for Elberel Italiana, circa 1975. AIBDC : 003485.1-.2

Photo: Squeezable packs, E J Jackson at Photo-services Industrial for BXL, circa 1958. BXL : 0952. Sqezy washing up bottle, Metal Box Company, circa 1960. AIBDC : 005498. Hot A Dog Mustard bottle, Cascelloid for Hax, circa 1958.  AIBDC : 005637. Whipped syrup bottle, Cascelloid for Hax, circa 1958.  AIBDC : 005639. Fish shaped bottle, Cascelloid for Hax, circa 1950-1969. AIBDC : 005503. Strawberry Flip Syrup bottle, Cascelloid for Flip, circa 1950-1969. AIBDC : 005505. Coffee syrup bottle, Cascelloid for Flip, circa 1957. AIBDC : 005633. Jif Lemon, William Alec Gibson Pugh for Unilever, this example circa 2005. AIBDC : 005918. Pineapple Syrup bottle, Cascelloid for Hax, circa 1958. AIBDC : 005504. Banana Syrup bottle, Cascelloid for Flip, circa 1957. AIBDC : 005502. Blackcurrant Flip Syrup bottle, Unknown for Flip, circa 1950-1969. AIBDC : 005506.1. Yellow honey bottle, Cascelloid for Be Ze Be Honey, circa 1950-1969. AIBDC : 005634

Helmet, Plasfort, circa 1940-1945. AIBDC : 008192, German military lantern, Unknown, circa 1939. PHSL : 182. Toy building blocks, Louis Cousin for BATIMA, circa 1930.  PHSL : 34

Comb production process samples, Unknown, date unknown. WCHL : 214.1-.5. Horn collapsible beaker, Unknown, 1875-1900. WCHL : 286C. Horn scissors, Unknown, 1800-1899. WCHL : 446

As well as looking at the history of plastics, the exhibition also explored the problems plastic pollution creates especially on beaches.  All of the pieces of litter on the sandy beach below were gathered by primary schools and nurseries from a 183-mile radius of the V&A Dundee as part of the exhibition engagement project.  Some pieces were labelled with their production date to show how long litter like this had been in existence.

The beach with video backdrop.
The final space in the exhibition, 'Re-' looked at some of the work being done by scientists, designers, activities and legislators to find new ways to address and reduce pollution.  Some of this work dealt with reuse, repair, and recycling, as well as plastics based on renewable resources and biodegradable materials.


'Re-' the final space within the exhibition.  

The exhibition made it clear that there is no single solution but multiple approaches which need to be both local and global, as well as individual and societal. ‘Collectively we must remake our world’.  It was certainly an interesting and engaging exhibition and, having observed some of my fellow visitors, got people talking the future of the use of plastics.

If you would like to find out more about the exhibition, the book associated with it is available in the MoDiP Reference Library.  Plastic: Remaking our world is currently on display at maat, Portugal Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, and will hopefully be travelling to other countries in the future.

Louise DennisCurator of MoDiP