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Plastic fantastic: finding art in an ocean of trash

Daniel Canogar's new show focuses on France-sized mass of waste in Pacific

The largest dump in the world is not on land, but floating out at sea. The Pacific Trash Vortex, or Great Pacific Garbage Patch, was discovered in the late 1990s and covers a huge surface - some claim it is the size of France or larger. This mass sinks more than 30 meters down into the ocean, and is mostly made up of thousands of tons of bits of plastic that prevailing currents have brought together. The story of its discovery left a deep impression on the artist Daniel Canogar, who decided to make it the subject of his new exhibition, Vórtices, a set of six installations that opened this week at Madrid's Fundación Canal (C/ Mateo Inurria, 2).

Canogar, an artist who has developed his own language based on new technologies, chose plastic as the star of this latest project. But plastic, a polymer derived from petroleum that is not biodegradable, is not the only star of the show. Humans also figure prominently in their double role as both the creators of the disposable culture and its main victims. Or, as the introduction to the show describes, "the quick and intentional obsolescence of consumer goods, and the subsequent and uncontrolled generation of garbage."

Besides plastics, Canogar has used other materials such as bathroom fittings and pipes he picked up at city dumps and gave a new life to in order to highlight the need for more and better recycling.

"In some ways, Canogar's work is closer to the spirit of the Arte Povera movement than of new media: he uses materials that are generally not thought of as artistic, yet hold great aesthetic power when given the opportunity to be considered in this light, with no artistic or cultural prejudices attached," says curator George Stolz in a text included in the catalog of the show.

Another piece by Canogar is on display at the tower of the former water deposit owned by Canal de Isabel II. Travesías is a 30-meter long LED screen that the artist made for the atrium of the Justus Lipsius building in Brussels, which houses the EU Council, during the Spanish presidency of the European Union from January to June of last year.