Immortal Plastics

Collaborator: Sarah Rothberg
Participatory performance
Premiered at New Museum IDEAS CITY
Immortal Plastics (IP) Assessment Services is a performative, methodological procedure which determines the depth of participants’ relations with hydrocarbons and positions participating individuals on a timeline of plastic’s ancient past and indefinite future.
250 million years ago during the Permian Period, marine microorganisms died and accumulated in sediments on the floor of a vast saline sea. Over Deep Time, the seas dried out, landmasses moved, and these marine creatures transmuted into hydrocarbons. The Anthropocene occupies a brief but significant piece of the hydrocarbon timeline, transforming the decayed microorganisms into the plastics that permeate modern living, a material at once disposable and indestructible.






The Immortal Plastics Assessment Service begins with individual evaluations.
Participants have the option to disrobe completely, swapping a plastic gown for their clothes, or to assess the contents of the pockets and bags. “Please empty your petrochemical belongings into the intake bin.” The process continues with the assistance of the IP assessors until all of the petrochemical possessions of the participant have been inventoried and removed from his/her person. The balancing scale is then employed to weigh personal belongings against the raw plastic material known as regrind, pre-consumer waste and recycled pellets of a variety of pure plastics. The process of balancing the scale takes on a subtle allusion to time passing, as the regrind resembles grains of sand passed through an hourglass.

The weights of people’s belongings are tallied, and gathered into an itemized receipt.
Participants are documented with before and after photos and are left with their itemized receipt. They have the option to purchase a souvenir / memento mori—a keepsake jar of regrind that represents the amount of each plastic they had on their person, labeled with their total weight of personal plastic. The assessment process requires approximately 15 minutes.



Part performance, part practical assessment, Immortal Plastics looks at how petrochemicals are at play in one’s life. By reflecting on our personal relationships with infinitely scalable and long-lived plastics, preservatives, and inputs, participants may come to appreciate their role as a vehicle of hydrocarbons' immortal pursuit.