Art, Activism, Conservation:
Ocean Cleanup
SNARK: How did this latest series of works come about?

IYVONE KHOO: The project started as a postcard photography series “Souvenirs from Paradise" but it evolved into multilayered video works depicting imaginary landscapes of sacred nature as wastelands portraying a menacing tableau.

In 2018, I was invited to Hawaii by leading Microplastic researcher Dr Sarah-Jeanne Royer to witness in person the plastic problem in 'Paradise'.

During this eventful trip, I met some incredibly passionate ocean advocates that were all doing their part to raise awareness on environmental conservation.

Not only did it influence the work I make, but it also shaped my living habits and artistic output.
SN: In what way?

IK: I left Hawaii thinking and questioning my own behaviour and personal impact on the environment, which led to fundamental changes in my lifestyle and as an artist to direct my work to critique the status quo.

I could no longer be idle in my actions, the fact that for the past 27 years on coffee alone, I have consumed about 6804 plastic cups.

Some of them may be floating around the ocean, in the landfill, in the stomachs of fishes, birds, whales, recycled or back in my stomach. So I decided to neutralise the numbers.

Changing one's own habits may seem inconvenient, but they are necessary; saying no to a plastic straw or a plastic bag, carrying your own coffee mug and shopping bag, finding groceries that are not wrapped in plastic and avoiding plastic products, all small changes in habits which if applied by enough people will undoubtedly have a positive effect.
SN: Hawaii as inspiration for changing use of plastic seems unusual?

IK: Hawaii is a beautiful and seemingly pristine natural wonder.
Nature here is omnipresent and powerful, yet this idyllic paradise can't escape from plastic pollution. When even Hawaii has a plastic trash problem, it means our world is in peril.
This isn't an isolated case, it is a reflection of a global situation.
The Kuroshio Pacific currents (aka Black Current) carries large amounts of plastic from the rest of the world to Hawaii. The Black Current flows past Taiwan, East China Sea, Korea Straits, Sea of Japan before turning into North Pacific Current. It joins the Pacific North Equatorial Current back out into the Philippines Sea then splits off the coast of Canada and forms the Alaska and California currents.

The currents know no boundaries, they just flow, breaking up plastic into smaller pieces, releasing toxins while polluting the water and causing devastation to the health of the wildlife and eventually humans. Many of these plastics have been floating around for decades. It is with these dubious treasures that I have created my current series of works.

SN: Tell us more about the actual objects you use.

IK: My recent works contain common household plastic objects that create video narratives.
A toy dinosaur, a decayed teddy bear, a toy burger, a Mickey Mouse Pez candy dispenser, a Buddhist incense burner, a small collection of animals and toy soldiers; all arranged to make video dioramas of current topics. I chose to use toys because of their clear symbolism and our ability to relate to them.
Examples of work with plastics:
Eternal Spring
A prominent piece of Schweppes soda plastic crate from the 50s and microplastic waterfall.

Plastic Wonderland
A Shell petroleum cap, brush bristle, toothbrush

Ascend Descend, in pixel dust we trust

A Buddhist incense urn, plastic toys animals, micro plastics, Dinosaur toy, plastiglomerate, toy soldiers, Mickey mouse candy dispenser, baby toy figure, toy gun etc.

Coral Moon
Bioluminescent plankton and laser painted on plastic landscape and time lapse of anemone using the LIGHTSCOPE.

Canary Songs
A blue elephant toy, a soldier.
Being confronted by these innocent looking objects, conjures wonderful childhood memories, yet I am faced with the realisation that our collective dreams are now ecological nightmares.

Iyvonne Khoo's drop with opens
on the 8th of June:
8 JUNE 2021
8 JUNE 2021
Iyvone Khoo
Plastic in Paradise