Alejandro Durán, “Washed Up”

Washed Up: Transforming a Trashed Landscape is an environmental installation and photography project that transforms the international debris washing up on Mexico’s Caribbean coast into aesthetic yet disquieting works.

Over the course of this project, Durán has identified plastic waste from fifty-eight nations and territories on six continents that have washed ashore along the coast of Sian Ka’an, one of Mexico’s largest federally-protected nature reserves and a UNESCO World Heritage site. He uses this international debris to create color-based, site-specific sculptures that conflate the hand of man and nature. At times, he distributes objects the way the waves would; other times, the plastic mimics algae, roots, rivers, or fruit, reflecting the infiltration of plastics into the natural environment.

More than creating a surreal or fantastical landscape, these installations mirror the reality of our current environmental predicament. The resulting photo series depicts a new form of colonization by consumerism, where even undeveloped land is not safe from the far-reaching impact of our disposable lifestyle. The alchemy of Washed Up lies not only in transforming a trashed landscape, but in the project’s potential to raise awareness and change our relationship to consumption and waste.

Born in Mexico City in 1974, Alejandro is now based between Brooklyn, New York and Sian Ka’an, México, where he continues to gather trash for the project. He received an MA in Teaching from Tufts University and an MFA in poetry from the New School for Social Research. As an educator, Durán has taught youth and adult classes in photography and video at The Museum of Modern Art and The International Center of Photography. His media production company, Luma Projects, includes clients such as MoMA, Microsoft, UNICEF, and the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture.

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