As part of our morning sunrise livestream series, we recently had the pleasure of chatting with coastal warrior Marina Debris who has made it her life mission to live more consciously by the sea to eliminate waste and cruelty to all species by turning beach rubbish into art with a message.
It is a mission that has led to her becoming globally recognized as an artist or artivist (an art/activist) agitator as she calls herself by producing a series of critically acclaimed and award-winning artworks, such as ‘Trashion’, wearable art made fashion made out of polystyrene cups and takeaway containers, and exhibitions such as ‘The Inconvenience Store’ shown at Sculpture by the Sea, and culminating recently with a collection of these works exhibited in the prestigious National Maritime Museum.
So, if living more consciously by the sea and protecting our costal environment is something you’re interested in read on to find out how Marina’s unique work is making us think about the waste we generate and question the impact of our choices.
How did it all start?
It all started for me in when I was living in New York City and Australian friends that I had told me that what a daggy place Bondi was so I took a trip here and took one look at the beach and said if this is your bad beach I’m movig here.
It had always been a dream for me to live by the ocean so I moved here in the 1990’s had an amazing life and I remember working and coming home in the summer evenings and going for a run and a swim and I just pinched myself every day, with the amazing beaches and stunning coastline here in Sydney.
And then I moved back to to Venice Beach in Los Angleles and instantly noticed how much waste and plastic was washing up on the beach and thought to myself how did this become acceptable and have I been living under a rock and I just started collecting it at first and taking it back to where it came from like cups from 7-Eleven to bring their attention to it and that was getting nowhere so I so I started creating art out of it because I thought as a graphic designer I was trained to deliver a message visually.
So, I started creating two dimensional /three dimensional pieces working with organisations that dealt specifically with ocean pollution and I’ve been doing it ever since and it hasn’t been a career until recently which is pretty phenomenal as I never expected it to be a career.
What is it that really resonating with people about your work?
I think with installations like The Inconvenience store it’s really the humour which engages people especially young kids because they can relate to it, it’s simple it doesn’t require much explanation, you know right away where all the items come from.
With the trashion, wearable art I’ve made from items washed up on the beach it’s because fashion appeals to people because it’s a visually exciting, also the simplicity of the message I don’t need to explain it really, the only thing I do need to explain is the disconnect of how things get into the ocean which is not just by people leaving it on the beach, it’s not just by people literally throwing it int the ocean its by from all us right down to putting something in a rubbish bin.
If it doesn’t go to the sea it goes to landfill producing methane so the idea is to waste as little as possible and reuse as much as possible
What was the concept behind your inconvenience store exhibition?
The Inconvenience store is set up like a convenience store but the twist is that all the items in there I have personally found washed up on the beach or in the ocean. I have packaged everything thing in re-used packaging, the plastic is from the local magazines that are on the street that would just end up in landfill, the cardboard I’ve sourced out of rubbish bins so almost nothing in there is virgin materials and it’s just a send up on how our convenience items are really major inconvenience.
At Sculpture by the Sea, it did really well and won The People’s Choice Award and it won The Mayor’s prize and the Sydney Water Environmental Award
So, what types of trash are you seeing on our beaches and how has it changed?
The number of face masks washing up on beaches is what has changed the most over the last two years. Every day I collect at least five or six, as well as countless single-use coffee cups and lids. Last May, in Gordons Bay, I counted more than 30 packages, each comprising 50 disposable face masks, from some of the 50 shipping containers that went overboard last year.
What can people do to help and live more consciously by the Sea?
The most obvious is to be really conscientious of every purchase that you make, be it how things are packaged, bring your own containers i.e., your own coffee/water cups even with fashion buying thrift second hand clothes or more circular fashion items, not fast fashion same as furniture buying things that last, or re-gifting all those things.
Food is also very important, your choices on food are crucial to how we are destroying the environment. Personally, I’m vegan so I don’t eat any animal product and chemicals as everything has an impact or a footprint so you have to really think about your choices and if you follow a few simple daily habits like this you can live a fantastic life consciously by the sea in Bondi especially because we are so lucky with choice.
A lot of countries don’t have choice and we are extremely fortunate here, we have waste management systems so its easy to do the right thing like sorting out your recyclables and taking your recyclables to a return and earn machine.
Lobbying government is a very important factor, just getting bans on single use plastics, also if you get too much packaging on items, you can write to the manufacturer, write to the supermarket just make noise really.
We live in a democracy so its imperative you exercise your rights to make your views known to help protect our environment.
“My plea to everyone is to use reuse everything – from masks to coffee cups. Make my art supplies disappear – or at least rare.”
Tell us about your exhibition at the National Maritime Museum
It’s an amazing space and I’m really excited about the exhibition so it’s a combination of a series of works that I have done. Some is brand new, it’s got the trashion wearable art which is a series called ‘beach couture, a hot mess’.
It’s got two series photographic series by amazing photographers one local, one from LA, It’s got an older series I produced called ‘Pearls before swine’.
It’s got The Inconvenience Store and it’s also got a brand new exhibition which I call ‘Artifacts from the Anthropocence’ which is about how people in the future would be seeing artifacts from today. Unfortunately a larger percetnage of which would be plastics that do not go away or back into the earth, and that last forever, and as we know some plastic can last for four to five hundred years, or it just breaks down into smaller bits especially in the ocean it’s very dangerous because it actually absorbs more toxins so it’s more dangerous to sea life.
Follow & get in contact with Marina here:
Other groups and organizations to get involved with
The Ocean Action Pod a multimedia, educational space touring NSW beaches to engage coastal communities in ocean plastic.
Plastic Free Bronte-Aims to reduce plastic waste in the ocean in the eastern suburbs.
5gyres-Empowering action against the impact of plastics globally.
Tangaroablue.org-Dedicated to the removal of marine debris in Australian oceans.
Zero co -removing the need to use single use plastic from your kitchen and Bathroom