Professor, students install curtain of grocery bags on UT campus

Society’s love-hate relationship with plastic bags is explored in “Plastic Poetry,” an architectural installation designed by a team of Texas A&M students led by Weiling He, associate professor of architecture, one of four designs chosen for display at the University of Texas Oct. 14 – 18 from a worldwide call for proposals.

The exhibit was part of “ [Curtains] ( ,” an event exploring the use of fabrics in contemporary art and architecture, sponsored by UT’s Center for American Architecture and Design.

“If you look at it from far away it looks like cherry blossoms, so it’s quite pretty,” said He. “But if you look closer, sometimes you feel like you’re facing a pile of trash. It’s a contradiction between something very beautiful and something ugly, which corresponds to our feelings about plastic as a material.”

He’s primary design collaborators — Keenan McCord, a [Bachelor of Environmental Design] ( student, Ganesh Rao, who earned a [Master of Fine Arts in Visualization] ( degree in 2013 and Maiomaio Xiao, who earned a [Master of Science in Visualization] ( degree in 2010 — immediately thought about a design with plastic bags when the “Curtains” competition was announced in January 2013.

Plastic bags, said He, have a lot of meaning attached to them.

“There’s consumption, because we use plastic bags to shop, and there’s also waste and potentially pollution,” she said.

The massive piece, made of 14,000 bags donated by H.E.B. on Fitch Parkway in College Station and Target in Byran, was hung on a frame designed by John Nichols, associate professor of construction science, between UT’s architecture and west mall office buildings.

More than 200 students in approximately 10 classes wove the bags together in segments. After the segments were transported to UT, 12 students connected and attached them to Nichols’ frame.

After “Plastic Poetry” was removed Oct. 18, most of the bags were taken to a recycling facility, although He kept some for future class projects.

“Plastic Poetry’s” design proposal was included in a book distributed at an exhibit reception Oct. 16.

posted October 25, 2013