Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Lefkaxit

International Environmental Art Project between Lefkada Greece and Lymington UK 2019

Image credit: Trudi Lloyd Williams
For eleven years I have been raising awareness about plastic marine pollution with conservation and environmental groups including the Wildlife Trusts and National Parks. I recycle waste plastics creating sculptural installations and interventions in the public domain in places where people do not expect to encounter art, floating on, suspended over or adjacent to water. These installations engage with audiences and they become participants and go on their own journey about the art and its setting and particularly single-use plastics. 

I am currently working in Greece in the beautiful Ionian islands on a project called ‘Lefkaxit’ that links the two towns Lefkada Greece and Lymington UK through their marine heritage and significantly important wetlands and inshore waters. They share many aspects and in particular plastic marine pollution that affects their marine environment. https://www.trudilloydwilliams.co.uk/lefkaxit 



Weaving on a traditional loom
Image credit: Trudi Lloyd Williams
The island has a rich history in textile crafts, weaving and lace making. A local group of weavers ‘Figos’ have restored some of the old looms and are continuing this tradition. I saw the opportunity to work with these women and introduced them to Plarn - plastic yarn that we created out of waste plastic bottles. As sections of cloth were being woven, I sourced (from the island’s recycling centre Lefkogaia) waste plastic packaging, developing new fabrics and features that would work with the weavings. The sorted plastics were bonded, stitched, melted and shredded creating a translucent, durable fabric that the woven sections could be attached to. Plastic button features finished off the final fabric that was attached to a metal and wire suspended armature, that I created off site at my villa. 

Quilting and weaving the fabric
Image credit: Trudi Lloyd Williams 

I selected The Gyra, a beautiful wetlands where pink flamingos and other birds visit and live - which is overlooked by the town’s main street - to be the site of the installation. Negotiating permissions and other practical necessities proved very challenging, almost as challenging as the strong winds and adverse weather conditions which the work would have to survive in! 

A key part of the project was education. I created public participatory events including ‘Love My Gyra’, a beach clean around the lagoon with 70 volunteers removing 15 cubic meters of rubbish - mainly single-use plastics. 190 pupils from the island schools attended workshops, learning about plastic marine pollution and trying their hand at weaving Plarn on the old looms. In total 250 participants helped with the creation of Lefkaxit and after 6 months the installation was ready to install. The preparation of the site included erecting 2 solid wooden posts 4m tall with a complex suspension arrangement and an electrical supply for 2 floodlights and 4 spotlights. The Installation day was dry but with 30 knot winds and our delivery vehicle was a flat bed lorry with a crane! Negotiating the narrow lanes through the overgrown olive groves to the site was hair raising, but we were so happy when the sculpture neatly attached to the lines and was hoisted securely in place. 


Image credit: Trudi Lloyd Williams
The opening was a formal affair at the Cultural Centre with presentations and speeches by the Director of the National Park Amvrikikos, a couple of conservationists and my colleagues and I. Following this we visited the installation and many selfies were taken. I smiled as this was exactly what I was hoping for: people interacting with Lefkaxit, making their own journey. 

Since Lefkaxit has been installed a second Love My Gyra beach clean has happened and I have given talks about the project on the neighbouring island Corfu. Wherever I go on Lefkada people say “Ah! You are the lady with that plastic sculpture.” A conversation then follows about plastic marine pollution. A friend said to me recently, I arrived here in November and am now noticing a difference - I am not automatically offered a plastic bag and shops are selling reusable coffee cups.

 

Lefkaxit at sunset
Image credit: Trudi Lloyd Williams
Thousands of people including visitors, as the tourist season is beginning, pass by Lefkaxit each week, many interacting with it posing for photos and selfies. At night it is lit, and reflects the installation in the water, offering a different perspective and encouraging closer examination.

Trudi Lloyd Williams MA

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