The Human Aquarium
The Human Aquarium project was created by Yorkshire Life Aquatic, an organisation that uses art to tackle issues such as single-use plastics and their effects on the oceans. We were really worried about the amount of single-use plastics we use as a city, especially as a lot of them cannot be recycled. Although recycling is an option for some materials, we wanted to create a project that also promoted the ideas of reusing materials and reducing plastic use in the city.
It is especially relevant in land-locked cities such as Leeds, as people may simply not see the impact of these issues on the environment. The Human Aquarium aims to get people thinking about their plastic use in an interesting and visual way. Art and creativity are a powerful but gentle medium to engage people’s curiosity and interest in challenging subjects such as environmental sustainability.
We took over an empty shop in the St John’s shopping centre and transformed it into an aquarium inspired interactive exhibition. We created sculptures and installations made from single use plastics and thought-provoking photographic images and films to create a sensory space for visitors to explore. We collected thousands of used plastic bottles to produce the exhibits and worked with local group Plastic-Free Me who created a giant octopus made from a single person’s plastic waste for one month.
For the project we collaborated with many Leeds based artists, makers and students from Leeds Arts University. Over the 12 day exhibition in February we had thousands of visitors to the space, also running creative workshops using recycled materials and a sold out night of environmental talks, proving people really do care about what’s happening to our planet. The exhibition was a major success and we are already planning the second phase of the project soon.