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A Tomb for the Plastic Ghosts We Leave Behind

Installation view of 'Blister Pact' by Ian Trask at the Invisible Dog
Installation view of Ian Trask’s “Blister Pact” the Invisible Dog (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

Over seven months, artist Ian Trask collected thousands of molded blister packs destined for the landfill and transformed the plastic into a cross between a temple and tomb of consumerism. Installed at the Invisible Dog in Brooklyn, “Blister Pact is a translucent structure that suggests the specters of purchased products in its texture.

Installation view of 'Blister Pact' by Ian Trask at the Invisible Dog
Detail of “Blister Pact” by Ian Trask at the Invisible Dog (click to enlarge)

Blister packs are that ubiquitous thermoformed plastic packaging, or “that annoying stuff that’s impossible to open without cutting your hands,” as Trask puts it. Once discarded, the composition and low quality of the material makes it difficult to reuse, so even those sent to recycling facilities often end up in the landfill. Egg containers, the imprints of toys, the forms of phones, innumerable kale containers, and other plastic phantoms are some of the around 5,000 blister packs the Brooklyn-based Trask collected in the Blister Pact Project, where local bins and a collaboration with PS 321 crowdsourced and rescued some of this trash from its fate.

“What I really wanted to show was a huge spectrum of shapes, because part of my goal was to demonstrate the overwhelming use of this type of packaging across a range of commercial industries,” Trask told Hyperallergic. Considering the blister packs as ghosts of today’s consumption, he imagined future generations left with these uncertain forms, which even now have a fading familiarity as consumer patterns change.

Installation view of 'Blister Pact' by Ian Trask at the Invisible Dog
Installation view of Ian Trask’s “Blister Pact” at the Invisible Dog
Installation view of 'Blister Pact' by Ian Trask at the Invisible Dog
Detail from inside “Blister Pact”

“In my head I envisioned [‘Blister Pact’] as a place to be discovered well into the future,” he explained. “The archaeological process of the future will undoubtedly unearth a geological layer dominated by human waste. Because plastics take so long to break down, I began thinking of blister packs as archeological artifacts. Vessels that out-survived their contents.”

Trask, who has a science background, has worked with discarded consumer objects before like textile belts and cardboard, where he once built a “worm” that represented a new species of detritivore that thrived on urban waste. Although he’d experimented with blister packs for years, spending so much time with their shapes and their ghostly quality brought him to consider arranging them in the architecture of burial memorials. From a distance, the plastics linked with recycled ethernet cables appear abstract, like four walls of glyphic patterns.

“Our brains are already trained to deduce the meaning and function of objects by discerning information through shape recognition,” Trask said. “A tomb of plastic struck me as a powerful presentation, with numerous options for interpretation. Are we burying ourselves in our own waste? Not an uncommon view today. But then again, the tomb would be empty, devoid of any interned remains, possibly indicating a turning point in past events. A change in direction perhaps to avoid disaster, and a monument built in honor of that action.”

Installation view of 'Blister Pact' by Ian Trask at the Invisible Dog
Detail of Ian Trask’s ‘Blister Pact’ at the Invisible Dog
Installation view of 'Blister Pact' by Ian Trask at the Invisible Dog
Installation view of Ian Trask’s “Blister Pact” at the Invisible Dog
Installation view of 'Blister Pact' by Ian Trask at the Invisible Dog
Installation view of Ian Trask’s “Blister Pact” at the Invisible Dog
Installation view of 'Blister Pact' by Ian Trask at the Invisible Dog
Detail of Ian Trask’s “Blister Pact” at the Invisible Dog
Installation view of 'Blister Pact' by Ian Trask at the Invisible Dog
Looking out from Ian Trask’s “Blister Pact” at the Invisible Dog

Ian Trask: Blister Pact continues at the Invisible Dog (51 Bergen Street, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn) through April 11. 

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