Washed Up

Alejandro Durán collects the international trash washing up on the Caribbean coast of Mexico and transforms it into aesthetic yet disquieting art works that wake us to the threat of plastic pollution. Through photography and installation, his long-term project “Washed Up: Transforming a Trashed Landscape” examines the fraught intersections of man and nature, revealing the pervasive impact of consumer culture on the natural world. He also engages audiences through community-based environmental art-making and speaking engagements.

Washed Up: Transforming a Trashed Landscape is an environmental installation and photography project that transforms the international debris washing up on Mexico’s Caribbean coast into aesthetic yet disquieting works.

Over the course of this project, Durán has identified plastic waste from fifty-eight nations and territories on six continents that have washed ashore along the coast of Sian Ka’an, one of Mexico’s largest federally-protected nature reserves and a UNESCO World Heritage site. He uses this international debris to create color-based, site-specific sculptures that conflate the hand of man and nature. At times, he distributes objects the way the waves would; other times, the plastic mimics algae, roots, rivers, or fruit, reflecting the infiltration of plastics into the natural environment.

More than creating a surreal or fantastical landscape, these installations mirror the reality of our current environmental predicament. The resulting photo series depicts a new form of colonization by consumerism, where even undeveloped land is not safe from the far-reaching impact of our disposable lifestyle. The alchemy of Washed Up lies not only in transforming a trashed landscape, but in the project’s potential to raise awareness and change our relationship to consumption and waste.

Derrame (Spill), 2010


Plastiflor, 2011


Nubes (Clouds), 2011


Vena (Vein), 2011


Espuma (Foam), 2011


Algas (Algae), 2013


Atardecer (Sunset), 2013


Bombillas (Bulbs), 2013


Brotes (Shoots), 2014


Mar (Sea), 2013


Community La Tierra Punta Allen 2018


“Mar” installation, Art With Me Tulum, Mexico 2018


“Vena” at the Inter-American Development Bank 2019




All images copyright and courtesy of Alejandro Durán

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