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The beaches of Rio de Janeiro soon conjure up images of tropical cocktails, itsy bitsy bikinis and bronzed Brazilians. However, Dopper is set to surprise beachgoers in Rio during summer 2016 with an exceptionally striking sun worshipper: Plastic Madonna. This artwork, featuring a mother breastfeeding her child and based on a design by Dopper ambassador Peter Smith, is made of littered plastic bottles.
On World Ocean Day – 8 June 2016 – the 12 meter long Plastic Madonna will be unveiled on Botafogo beach. We want to use the artwork to draw attention to the large- scale plastic pollution with which we are ultimately contaminating our own food chain. After all, the beach is the last place where plastic waste can be prevented from ending up in the sea, where it becomes part of the plastic soup and is eaten by marine animals, the same marine animals that subsequently wind up on our own plates. Plastic Madonna symbolizes the mother who unintentionally poisons her baby with plastic molecules. Thus, the child will never grow into the large Christo Redentor – the 38-meter high image of Jesus – looking down from the mountains on Rio and the Plastic Madonna.
The Plastic Madonna project is anything but a doddle. The Dopper Beach Messengers in Rio have been actively collecting plastic waste for months. They do this – together with the local population – during festive beach clean ups. Virtually all beachgoers are very moved by the story of these exuberantly kitted out messengers and are motivated to help. In total, at least 65 kilos of plastic has been collected, that is around 4000 PET bottles! Besides, the clean ups have made Brazilians more aware of the negative impact of single-use plastic on the environment and on ourselves. That awareness is desperately needed in a country where 250,000 tons of waste is produced daily and only 2% is recycled.
Plastic Madonna was produced by Brazilian artist Eric Fuly. According to Eric, art is far more than colors and shapes: art has the ability to change lives. That is why he is always engaged in the social aspect of his work. For an art project at the London Games, he developed costumes made from recycled newspapers, paper and plastic to highlight the global issue of waste. In addition to being an artist, Eric is a lecturer at Spectaculu; an educational social initiative to train young people from deprived neighborhoods in Rio to become (visual) artists. Eric involves these young people in his projects as much as possible so that they can develop themselves further, gain experience, or generate an income. Eric’s students will also form part of the technical and creative team for the Plastic Madonna. They will be directly involved in the manufacturing, finishing, aesthetic development and recycling and transformation of plastic for the artwork. In this way, Eric is helping young people develop a different perspective of plastic. He teaches them new artistic techniques and applications for (re) using plastic. Thus, art becomes a vehicle for teaching them something about the environment and sustainability. Eric is very enthusiastic about the Plastic Madonna project: ‘’It challenges me to see the value of every plastic bottle, to highlight the ecological problems with which we are confronted, and thus to combine art and sustainability.’’
Fortunately, the local authority of Rio de Janeiro also understands the importance of our art project in the polluted city and they have supported us where necessary.
Dutch Plastic Madonna
The Plastic Madonna in Rio is based on a design by Dutch artist Peter Smith. He produced a similar project on the Scheveningen coast with Stichting Klean. The Dutch Plastic Madonna was made from plastic litter, using 3D printers.
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