when plasticus imitates art

2 minute read

Life imitates art far more than Art imitates life
— Oscar Wilde

This old adage made famous by Oscar Wilde in his Platonic dialogue, 'The Decay of Lying,' signifies both the power of art to transform culture, and its ability to inspire in its beholders aesthetic awareness that can fashion new ways of seeing and knowing the world. It oscillates between the political and the moral realms so effectively that it can be unitive and illuminative.

As the torch that lights the way towards deeper understanding of the problems and challenges we face globally, art is being used as the medium to communicate with the public the pollution pandemic that is symptomatic of our consumerism and limited education on the consequences of our actions.

a plastic problem the size of a whale

Sky Ocean Rescue seeks to use its platform to inform and inspire people to come together, and take deliberate action to protect our oceans and seas. The 28th of August marks the end to their month-long campaign, "A plastic problem the size of a whale," which toured the UK in an effort to provide Brits with a relatable representation of plastic pollution. The 10 metre whale constructed from the same amount of plastic bags, bottles and straws that end up in the ocean every second provided a haunting look into the magnitude of the problem. Sky Ocean Rescue translated what is an unfathomable amount of plastic that enters our ocean in a year (approximately 4-12 million metric tonnes) to a sculptural representation of how many plastics seep into our waters per second.

It's unnerving to imagine a 10 meter plastic whale diving into our oceans every second. That's 86, 400 whales a day.

Composed of plastic bags and bottles pulled from the waters around the UK, the project took 2 weeks and 4 people to complete. Its eery form elicited uncertainty and concern in passersby. When we consider that, by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans, the sculpture prophesies a disturbing glimpse into a future in which whales could be made of plastic.


Unveiled by the River Thames with a backdrop of Tower Bridge, the whale was commensurate with the juxtaposition of modern art and architecture with the centuries' old anatomy of London. The placement of white, green and blue plastics gave the whale an effect of swimming through the ocean, and yet, it provides a cautionary tale to onlookers. It struck a chord with Brits and holiday-makers who were shocked by our plastic reality.

Earlier this month, our CEO, Lily Steele, visited the whale when it began its tour in London. Shocked by its size, but unsurprised by the sheer amount of ocean plastic pollution, Lily felt the political and moral weight of inspiring change in the general public. 

The whale received a lot of attention, but what we need now is action
— Lily Steele

beyond plasticus

We are all guilty of using plastic supermarket bags, enjoying a cocktail with a plastic straw, and buying into water housed in plastic bottles, and when confronted with a plastic creature, it's very difficult to perpetuate the habitual, mindless consumerism that has brought us here. Whilst whales aren't monsters, this plastic creature is a monster of our own making.

Recently Christened Plasticus, a name that captures the spirit of our fight against ocean plastic, the whale now sits at Sky's HQ on display in London as a reminder that we all need to be an #OceanHero. Whilst it's difficult to gauge the longterm effectiveness of this campaign in terms of changing consumer behaviour, we ought to consider how art can be used to inspire allies dedicated to fighting the war on ocean plastic.

Art speaks to us in ways language can't, and it's for that reason that we ought to consider its value as a catalyst for cultural change. 

One Plasticus is enough . . . 


wilde tips for plastic resistance

  • Drink out of a refillable plastic bottle. Our WildeNest water bottle gives you twice as much bang for your buck. It's refillable AND 1% of sales supports ocean cleanup.
  • Use a bag for life. Say no to single-use plastic bags and stock your car with reusable bags for all shopping.
  • Avoid products that contain microbeads. They aren't good for our bodies, and they certainly aren't good for our oceans. Follow us to stay updated as we launch our Wilde Life Guide that offers alternatives that we love and use. 
  • Support companies that close the loop. Look for recycled plastic clothing, jewellery and other products that repurpose plastics (check out Splosh) or prevent them from entering our rivers, seas and oceans. 
  • Stop sucking. There's no need for plastic straws. Go without or use a metal or glass one.
  • Love tea and coffee? Be prepared and bring a reusable mug.
  • Boycott plastic-wrapped fruit and veg. Bring your own reusable produce bags. 
  • DIY and upcycle plastic products at home. Pinterest offers hundreds of ideas for home crafting.