Opening In The Gottesman Family Israel Aquarium, Jerusalem, Ending At The World Trade Center, New York
Jerusalem, Israel - Feb. 6, 2022 - On February 6th, 2022, Beverly Barkat opened her solo exhibition at the Gottesman Family Israel Aquarium, located in Jerusalem, Israel. The exhibition, Earth Poetica, centers around a huge sphere built from wrought iron with 180 panels that shine and sparkle colorfully in the light.
The globe, created by Barkat, has the earth's landmasses and seas and oceans delineated with shades of greens and aqua blues, confetti pinks, burnt oranges, and earthy browns - a "perfect depiction of a precious jewel-encrusted world."
And yet, when looking deep into the sphere, one can see that the jeweled colors are in fact the plastic waste, the garbage that was thrown on the ground and tangled in the oceans and seas.
Over the past three years, the creative artist has been picking up plastic litter from home, bringing it back from trips abroad, urging her family and friends to be attentive as to what is placed around them, and asking them to send their plastic waste to her. Barkat's studio, located in downtown Jerusalem, has been close to overflowing with wrappers, cartons, bottles, and bags from Israel and overseas.
As more people heard about her installation, boxes of plastic waste were arriving on her doorstep. "I was haunted by the images that I saw on a television documentary about plastic waste," says Barkat. "There were impoverished children searching for 'treasure' among piles of plastic waste on the beach. The image was so strong and has stayed with me. Is this the beautiful earth that we are leaving for our children? Is this our legacy – planet Earth covered by plastic waste? Plastic pollution is one of the critical problems we face today. As an artist, I express my emotions and views visually. I wanted to make the beauty of planet Earth visible while at the same time showing very clearly the problem for which we are all responsible."
As the piles of plastic began to pile up, Barkat learned more about the pressing issue. According to the Israel Ministry of Environmental Protection, each person in Israel alone creates about 1.7 kg of trash per day. This amount is equal to 51 kg waste per month and 612 kg waste per year. A study by the MacArthur Foundation found that in 2025 the oceans will contain a ton of plastic for every ton of fish, and by 2050 the amount of plastic will surpass that of fish due to the huge proportion of the 10 million tons of plastics finding their way to the oceans. The amount of plastic in the oceans causes ecological damage amounting to $13 billion a year.
In Barkat’s Earth, there are 5 plastic islands in the middle of the oceans echoing the plastic patches that can be found today in the North and South Atlantic, the North and South Pacific, and the Indian ocean. "Because about 60% of the plastic islands are composed of refuse from fishing nets, the islands on my globe are also made of fishing nets," mentioned Barkat at the opening day press conference. Additionally, the artist notes that her patches are proportionally larger than their actual area on the globe as "the islands continue to grow all the time."
Barkat believes the best place to exhibit her installation was at the Gottesman Family Israel Aquarium, Jerusalem. "I hope that Earth Poetica engages the many diverse visitors to the aquarium and in particular children who need to know about the future of our planet. The power to effect change will be in their hands, and the solutions as well. Earth Poetica allows the viewer to see both sides of the earth – its beauty together with the ‘mess’ we are creating with our plastic pollution."
The installation, together with a storyboard made up of different plastic components shows the care taken to create the impressive, traveling work, and illustrates the power of art to engage and inspire.
Alon Levy, Director of Israel Aquarium, also on-site for the opening, stated, "Since The Gottesman Family Israel Aquarium was established, we have been working to increase awareness of the damage that is taking place to the marine environment and our need to reduce the amount of waste we produce which harms tens of thousands of marine life and animals every day. I was delighted to welcome Beverly Barkat’s Earth Poetica into the Aquarium. The new installation presents an innovative and unique perspective of this problem and I hope will inspire each of us to be more aware and to make a change in our daily habits with regards to plastic pollution.”
The curator for the aquarium lobby exhibition was Raffaella Frascarelli. A special staircase was built for visitors to be able to view the globe from above.
Beverly Barkat was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1966, and moved to Israel with her family in 1976. The daughter of two artists, she grew up immersed in art. After her degree in Fine Arts from the esteemed Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, she began working with clay, metal, and glass, but later shifted to drawing and oil painting after an inspiring master class led by Israel Hershberg at the Jerusalem Studio School.
Motivated by an unflagging interest in experimenting with new materials, as well as by the desire to discover the potential energy of architectural spaces, she created Earth Poetica for the lobby space in the New York City World Trade Center. The exhibit is to be in Jerusalem for six months before moving to its designated home in New York.
Beverly is married to former Jerusalem Mayor and current Member of Knesset Nir Barkat, who was present at the opening. He declined to be interviewed and stayed quietly in the background as his wife explained her work.