In 2022, The Last Ocean made its debut at Burning Man’s Black Rock City. This remarkable installation delves into the urgent issue of plastic pollution in our oceans, a warming planet, the depletion of natural resources, and the pressing need for transformative systemic change.
Comprised of traveling, temporary interactive platforms that span a vast landscape, the installation is brought to life by community engagement. Crafted from reclaimed ocean plastic, The Last Ocean creates an otherworldly ice field that mimics the geometric tessellations of Antarctica’s glaciers.
Throughout the day, the interactive platforms showcase the metamorphosis of reclaimed ocean plastic. And as night falls, The Last Ocean illuminates in a spectacular array of vibrant interactive light, captivating viewers with its stunning beauty and powerful message.
Ten years ago, I conceptualized a new interactive sculpture called The Last Ocean. John Weller’s photographs and urgent ideas to preserve Antarctica’s Ross Sea directly inspired my vision for the sculpture.
Since inception, it has taken my small team and I nearly a decade to figure out how to build The Last Ocean authentically. We have actively worked to design, invent, engineer and fabricate the artwork entirely out of collected and reclaimed Ocean Plastic Trash. This process has required reinventing aspects of my art practice while pushing the boundary of plastic manufacturing.
After such a long journey, we are excited to announce THE LAST OCEAN: an expansive landscape of interactive platforms created from reclaimed ocean plastic, evocative of a luminescent ice field composed of beautiful geometric tessellations. The Last Ocean not only seeks to inspire and educate, but also – through the use of reclaimed ocean plastic – to impact the recovery of our oceans and our planet.
The Last Ocean redefines public artwork as an interactive landscape. Our hope is that this work will inspire and educate but also – through the use of reclaimed ocean plastic – encourage the recovery of our oceans and our planet.
“We estimate that at least 5.25 trillion plastic particles weighing 268,940 tons are currently floating at sea.” Eriksen M, Lebreton, et al.
Ultimately, we believe that humans need to put an end to the appalling levels of single- or limited-use plastic production. However with hundreds of thousands of tons of plastic already in the ocean, we knew it was important to attack the problem on multiple fronts.
To make this work possible Jen Lewin Studio has closely collaborated with Ocean Plastic Technologies (OPT), in South Africa. OPT and Jen Lewin Studio are re-engineering the circular plastic economy by finding new ways to recycle and repurpose ocean-bound plastic pollution. The Last Ocean is handmade from collected ocean and ocean-bound plastic trash collected from coastal communities, ground down and melted to create the artwork.
A small portion of the plastic collected by Jen Lewin Studio and Ocean Plastic Technologies. Over 10,912 pounds of plastic, 9,268 pounds of glass fiber and composite was collected to create The Last Ocean.
Creation of The Last Ocean has been a multi year journey requiring that our studio entirely re-think our own fabrication processes. We hope that this hands-on exploration can inspire other artists, designers, fabricators, and plastic manufacturers to reconsider their own direct role in protection and conservation of our planet.
“There is no such thing as ‘away’. When we throw anything away, it must go somewhere.” – Annie Leonard
The Last Ocean’s shape and form is directly inspired by the Type 9 pentagonal tiling discovered by artist and mathematician Marjorie Rice. At the time of her discovery there were only 9 known pentagonal tilings discovered by mathematicians Karl Reinhardt, R. B. Kershner, and Richard James between 1918-1975.
In 1976, with no training in geometry beyond a general math course in highschool, the 52 year old Californian homemaker discovered 4 pentagonal tilings over the course of 2 years, after reading a puzzle column on the tessellations in the Scientific American Magazine. Employing an elaborate symbolic system and hand-sketched studies, RIce worked on her investigations discovering these four new tessellating convex pentagons and nearly 60 additional never before seen tessellations, all in the spare moments she had alone at home when her husband and 5 children were at work and school.
Since her discoveries, there was one pentagonal tiling discovered in 1985 by Rolf Stein and the last pentagonal tiling was discovered in 2015 using computer algorithms (Mann/McLoud/Von Derau). To date there are only 15 total pentagonal tilings of the plane, confirmed complete in 2017 by Michaël Rao. But for the initial discovery by Karl Reinhardt, Marjorie Rice’s pentagons make up the largest set of these tilings. The interactive platforms used to create The Last Ocean will be in the shape of Rices Pentagonal Tiling “Type #9”.
GRANTS & AWARDS
2022 Black Rock City Honorarium
2023 Vivid Syndey – The Last Ocean, “Antarctica”
2022 Black Rock City, Burning Man
2022 Detroit Design Week, The Last Ocean at Beacon Park
2022 Canal Convergence, The Last Ocean “Brunt Shelf”
2022 San Francisco Exploratorium, The Last Ocean Iceberg 74 and Brunt Ice Shelf
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