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Arts

Plastic as Art? Entire Grocery Store Created from Discards

January 18, 2023

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A grocery store featuring thousands of faux food items made entirely from discarded plastic bags opens Tuesday to the public, an artist’s non-edible creation calling attention to the dangers of plastic waste.

The Plastic Bag Store is a custom-built public art installation and film experience designed to encourage visitors to think more about the enduring impact of single-use plastics.

The store in Ann Arbor, Michigan, features shelves stocked with items such as meat, eggs and cakes, all made from single-use plastics taken from streets and garbage dumps.

The store at times during the day will be transformed into a stage for a series of short films in which puppetry and handmade sets are used to tell a story of the dangers of plastic waste and the consequences for future generations.

An caprese salad made from plastic is displayed at a grocery store that features thousands of products made entirely of discarded plastic, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023 in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Drinks filled with discarded plastic are displayed at a grocery store that features thousands of products made entirely of discarded plastic, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023 in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

As the show’s tagline puts it: “Part installation. Part film. All bags.”

Plastic bags are created by fossil fuels and often end up as waste in landfills and oceans.

Americans toss out 100 billion plastic bags per year, according to Worldwatch Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental research organization.

Theater and film director Robin Frohardt is the driving creative force behind the Plastic Bag Store.

Potatoes and carrots made from plastic are displayed at a grocery store that features thousands of products made entirely of discarded plastic, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023 in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
A grocery store that features thousands of products made entirely of discarded plastic opens to the public on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023 in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

“I got the idea many years ago after watching someone bag and double-bag and triple-bag my groceries,” Frohardt said Tuesday. “I just was sort of struck by how ridiculous how much packaging is involved in our everyday lives.

“And it just seemed so absurd. I just thought, ‘Maybe I could make a project that’s even more absurd.’ ”

The store’s shelves are lined with items whose names are intended to mimic real-life products such as “Yucky Shards” (Lucky Charms), “Bitz of Plastic Crap” (Ritz Crackers), “Bagemite” (Vegemite) and “Filthydelphia roll” (Philadelphia roll).

One product Frohardt didn’t have to alter was baguettes, “because it was already in the name,” she said with a laugh.

Garlic cloves made of plastic bags are displayed at a grocery store that features thousands of products made entirely of discarded plastic, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023 in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

The Plastic Bag Store, which runs through Feb. 5, is presented via a partnership between the University of Michigan Museum of Art, University Musical Society, University of Michigan Arts Initiative and Graham Sustainability Institute.

Tickets are $30 for general admission. Student tickets cost $12.

The show premiered in Times Square in 2020. It since has made stops in Los Angeles; Chicago; Austin, Texas; and Adelaide, Australia.

“I hope that we can continue to tour this project and bring it to different communities,” said Frohardt, who is based in New York. “My dream would be that this project becomes irrelevant.

“But it probably won’t be.”

 

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