Stanford University Press Release - 12 July 2019 - Stanford students launch immersive experience featuring Mandy Barker’s photographs
The virtual reality experience, ‘Ripple: the unintended life of plastics in the sea’ is now viewable at https://rippleplastic.com
Featuring the photography of artist and environmentalist Mandy Barker, the experience immerses viewers into a galaxy of waste, to show how ubiquitous, insidious and long-lasting plastic can be in our world.
In April of 2018, a team of eight Stanford University students, under the guidance of Professor Geri Migielicz, joined together to create this experience. Barker was supportive of the project from the beginning, excited at the prospect of her work taking on new life and reaching more people through this immersive medium. Barker supplied original files for four of her composite photographs for the project.
“It will be really exciting to see how this new format delivers and connects with people both in the museum and at home on their personal devices,” says Freedman.
Barker believes it is crucial for this art to be firmly grounded in the reality of marine plastics. The images themselves are beautiful, almost otherworldly, but the problem of plastic waste is real, unavoidable and very much a part of our world. Barker says the virtual reality experience will help viewers fully engage with her work.
“To be fully immersed and focused on the plastic issue, to see recovered objects and pieces of plastic come to ‘life’ floating by and enjoyed alongside music and spoken information educates and encourages the viewer to become involved in an extraordinary way, and in a way that a 2-dimensional photograph perhaps is not able to do,” says Barker.
Within the experience, viewers learn how long it takes for items to decompose — it might take 600 years for a discarded fishline to break down while a plastic toy could take thousands of years. The virtual reality experience ends with the locations where Barker collected the plastic objects and the location of the Pacific plastic gyre, a large area in the ocean littered with plastic debris. The team hopes the experience will spur individuals to take the problem of plastic more seriously. It is important not only to understand but to see and feel the fate of all the items we throw away. We may spend ten minutes drinking from a plastic water bottle, but it could live on in the ocean for eternity, claiming the lives of marine creatures along the way.
The experience is viewable to anyone and anywhere. It will whisk viewers away from the consumer-driven world, in which plastic is a staple, to exist for a few minutes in an ocean of discarded plastic.