Chronometer, an artistic dip into the bowels of oceanic contamination


Every second some 200 kilos (440 pounds) of plastic is dumped in the sea, a direct threat to the planet as the tons of waste floating in the dark depths of the oceans relentlessly grow, creating a desolate seascape with the moaning and groaning of whales as its soundtrack - or so this squalor is imagined in the Chronometer installation.

This work by Chilean artist Denise Lira-Ratinoff illustrates the need to raise awareness about the rapid deterioration of the seas, the reason she decided to use 1,200 bales of solid waste to create a labyrinth that leads the public to a not-too-distant future.

By means of a concept divided in two spaces related one with the other, Lira-Ratinoff creates an immersive experience that leads the public along a corridor walled with piles of soft-drink bottles, cleaning-product containers and other trash collected from Chile’s coasts and natural parks.

Spectators on this trip feel their way carefully in the dark on glass flooring that blurs the limits of the space and leads them to an uncertain end, to the sound of distant groaning whales.

Under this labyrinth of disaster is a projection that emulates on the floor below the movement of waves, an idyllic image above which hang tons of plastic rubbish set to destroy this landscape, its biological harmony and every kind of life that lives there.

All this is crowned with a chronometer that moves on impassibly, recalling the inevitable passage of time. Time when two-thirds of the planet is being systematically punished.

Lira-Ratinoff told EFE that the idea to create this installation occurred to her eight years ago when she was working on a photographic project about the oceans, through which she understood the impact all this rubbish has on nature, a reality that is “destroying us.”

Later, she said, in 2013, when she was in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile working on another project, she observed that in such a vulnerable region, no recycling was done, the reason she decided to do her part to change things.

“I started collecting the waste with trucks and taking it to Calama (in northern Chile) to compress it into bales. That’s when I got the idea of using this terrible junk that shows what we humans are up to, in order to create an installation,” the artist said.

The project is well in line with the position Chile has taken in recent years, with significant progress made in protecting its coasts and oceanic biodiversity.

Specifically, the southern nation has restricted the use of plastic bags, stopped fisheries from trawling, expanded protected marine areas, along with other measures - which has made it the world’s leader in oceanic conservation.

Though environmental threats still exist that must be worked on, such as the salmon producing industry in the southern region of Magallanes that threatens to leave the waters without oxygen and kill off the flora and fauna, the Blue Flag of conservation is now a subject of public debate in Chile.

This is so true that Chile will host the next United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) and make the care of oceans its central theme.