Imagine walking into a space that looks like a modern grocery store—except that everything there is made from single-use plastics. That will be the experience at a touring exhibit that opens January 17. The Plastic Bag Store targets the culture of consumption and convenience by highlighting the global glut of plastic waste.
The brainchild of Brooklyn-based artist Robin Frohardt, the immersive piece premiered in Times Square in 2020 and has since been to Adelaide, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Austin. The Ann Arbor edition is sponsored by the University Musical Society, the Graham Sustainability Institute, the U-M Museum of Art, and the U-M Arts Initiative.
The store displays everything from produce and meat to toiletries, cakes, and sushi rolls—all made from discarded single-use plastics collected from streets and garbage dumps. Several times a day, the stage transforms into a focal point for a series of short films.
“It’s a very different direction for UMS,” president Matthew VanBesien acknowledges, but he believes that it’s important to take on this issue. He calls Frohardt’s piece “a really amazing example of work that is actually about a very serious subject within the context of a global crisis”—one that’s clever, fun, and whimsical while still taking the subject seriously.
As the Observer went to press, UMS was still working with the Oxford Companies to find a place for the massive installation, which will run through February 5. See ums.org/performance/the-plastic-bag-store for the location and tickets ($30; students, $12).
Environmental groups will be involved to encourage visitors to be more careful in their own consumption and be advocates for change. But VanBesien thinks the Plastic Bag Store should appeal to visitors of all ages.
“Even young kids can be dazzled by the Plastic Bag Store but come away knowing that there’s something they need to be thinking about,” he says. “I guarantee that when you see this, you will never look at a disposable plastic water bottle the same again.”