Claudia Borgna transforms mundane white plastic bags into sculptures/installations that recall Romanticism in their approach to the culture-nature dichotomy. What is most striking about her installations is not necessarily their transformation of the cheap, disposable, but universal plastic bag into works of unusual beauty, but her non-judgemental fascination with the material and its relationship to our environment. It’s difficult to find anything environmentally conscious or preachy in her work; on the contrary, Borgna seems singularly committed to revealing the splendour in these unexpected man-made formations.
This fascination is particularly evident in installations with wistful titles like ‘Never the same again: still searching for Newfoundland’, ‘blow me away if you can’ and ‘and they lived happily ever after’ where the ubiquitous plastic bags, usually associated with some of the worst excesses of consumerist culture, are transformed from suffocating objects of destruction into organic motifs. Borgna treats the bags -– always a visual hair’s breadth away from the dirty plastic bag we’ve all seen caught in the windshield of a car or in bare tree branches – almost as if they were natural objects. The random and haphazard interaction of the plastic bag with nature is here transformed into something more deliberate.
Although it is possible to view installations like ‘Never the same again: still searching for Newfoundland’ as a continuation of the Land art ethos of the 1970s, a fruitful comparison might also be made with the European movement loosely categorised as Romantic art. In the nineteenth century artists like Caspar David Friedrich saw in nature an expression of the philosophy of the sublime, which in general terms describes the pleasure (and existential terror) of looking at objects of great magnitude. Likewise, Borgna not only marvels at the extraordinary and possibly sinister effect that the plastic bag creates in nature, but also deliberately exaggerates this juxtaposition for greater visual effect. The stray plastic bag caught in nature in this case embodies a subverted concept of the sublime that includes man-made shapes of modernity as legitimate objects of wonder.
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