Drinking in the Plastisphere: A Fountains Foundation Installation by Lilli Kayes


A guest review by Julynn Wilderson, regarding Lilli Kayes’ (a first-year InterArts media student) exhibition at 916 S Wabash (2nd floor) in Chicago, IL.

How can a space of public hydration, so often overlooked by habit, be transformed into a site of critical inquiry about our participation in a water cycle? In her installation Plastisphere, Lilli Kayes uses the non-traditional gallery space at the Fountains Foundation to inform the viewer and interrogate their participation in a fragile aquasystem.

At first glance, Plastisphere appears to be a series of decorative plastic fishbowls resting above the drinking area at the Fountains Foundation. Upon closer inspection, the viewer finds that what initially seems an incubator of organic life actually hosts plastic skeletal fish remains. Through confronting the viewer with the small but deadly ways in which plastic contamination affects ecosystems, Kayes uses a space where we physical engage with water to host political and ecological commentary.

To develop this installation, Kayes 3D scanned and printed organic Yellow Tailed Snapper using recyclable, BPA-free plastic polymer. Her ecospheres are made of found plastic, a bleak reminder that the cost of creating our environments is often toxic detritus that ends up in water systems. As viewers/drinkers confronted with these plastic saturated environments, we are reminded that unlike the hyperreal fish tanks, we are not living in a cordoned off world where our actions have no impact. On the contrary, we see from this spectacle of contamination the reality of being participants in a highly intricate hydrologic cycle and are invited to wonder critically about the impact of that participation.

Kayes’ interest in mixing art and science is heavily influenced by her childhood, and she hopes to generate art that invokes as much wonder and curiosity about the natural world as she feels.