MESSAGE IN A PLASTIC BOTTLE is an experiment in stranger intimacy during a time of wasteful consumption and ecological devastation



In the late 1980s, marine researchers in the North Pacific Ocean discovered a concentration of plastic debris that spans an area twice the size of Texas. Similar patches have been found in each of the world's oceans.

Most plastic does not biodegrade. Polyethylene terephthalate—the material of most plastic bottles—breaks down into tiny bits that can linger for centuries, prove difficult to extract from the sea, and poison the animals that ingest them. Plastic toxins can ascend the food chain and end up in human bodies.

Scientists believe that 4.8 million to 12.7 million metric tons of plastic enter the oceans every year. The World Economic Forum estimates that plastic will outweigh fish in the sea by 2050.

Plastic is at once an ecological and a philosophical issue. Its ubiquity and lifespan bend our comprehension of space and time. It is a problem that is here to stay, that grows without end...



People have cast messages into the sea for millennia. Bottles have carried the dramas of humanity, cries for help, stories of despair and love. Bottled messages have been used to collect data on ocean currents, search for pen pals, and memorialize the dead.

The discovery of a message in a bottle sparks curiosity. Where did the message originate? Who was the sender? How long had the bottle been afloat and what if it never arrived? Would its contents, and the life behind it, have been lost for all time?

A message in a bottle is a precarious trace of distant lives and distant times. It is a reminder that we are connected to people whom we may never meet and whose stories we may never fully know.



MESSAGE IN A PLASTIC BOTTLE addresses the plastification of the ocean while generating a sense of interconnectedness. It presents a sea of thousands of plastic bottles that contain messages. Participants will select a bottle, replace the message inside with one of their own, and return the capsule to the ocean of bottles.

This experience is ambivalent. It connects strangers by making them dump plastic into a sea that is no longer composed of water. MESSAGE IN A PLASTIC BOTTLE invites reflection on the costs and promises of sharing a planet wherein the medium of plastic outlives the message and the people who leave both behind.

MESSAGE IN A PLASTIC BOTTLE debuted on 7 July 2017 as part of EARTHLY CORRESPONDENCES, an installation in collaboration with environmentalist and artist Linh Huỳnh, at ʻAE KAI: A CULTURE LAB ON CONVERGENCE in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi.

The following messages were salvaged from the culture lab.