Plastiglomerates, Microplastics, Nanoplastics: Toward a dark ecology of plastic performativity

Title: Plastiglomerates, Microplastics, Nanoplastics: Toward a dark ecology of plastic performativity
Format: Journal Article
Publication Date: 2020
Published In: Performance Research
Publisher Taylor & Francis

We eat, drink, breathe, touch and absorb plastic polymers. The global proliferation of plastic objects permeates not only the deep sea, but also our kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms and bodies. This essay examines a series of case studies crystallizing some thoughts towards a dark ecology of plastic performativity. First, I develop a theoretical framework of plastic ecologies with reference to Kelly Jazvac's (2013-19) sculptural ‘Plastiglomerate readymades', naturally occurring mineral assemblages of melded plastic debris and geological sediment, and Pinar Yoldas's (2014) ‘Organs of the plastisphere', speculative biological adaptions for post-human creatures to sense and digest plastic. Then, I turn to Allison Cobb's (2015) Plastic: an autobiography, a creative non-fiction text based upon a durational, research-based process of uncovering links between the writer's embodied experience and plastic's history and materiality. Acknowledging the presence of microplastic particles within her body, Cobb speaks for plastic because she is plastic: the autobiographical individual subject becomes a plural, porous subject, an assemblage of vital materialities with distributed agency. Next, I discuss Claudia Borgna's (2015) performance art piece When I breathe you breathe, when you breathe I breathe, in which the artist breathes into a plastic bag. Borgna’s work explores ambivalent human affects towards plastic and subverts the common-sense assumption that plastic is toxic to humans by linking plastic with the breath, with what we need to survive. Finally, I theorize plastic subjectivity, suggesting that microplastics and nanoplastics activate a queer form of biological performativity. An ecological awareness of our bodies becoming-plastic may allow us to relinquish our illusions of individual sovereignty, and let ourselves slip into the ebb and flow of the sea of actants within us.

  • Literary and Cultural Studies
  • Media Studies
  • Science and Technology Studies
Related Departments:
  • School of Literature, Media, and Communication