Casper Whiteman is a Master’s degree student in the Department of Visual Art, Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, University of Johannesburg. His degree exhibition is located within the domain of environmental art in visual art practice, where his artistic responses to marine plastic pollution examines the complex effects of plastic debris found in our oceans. Within the framework of art and social justice, Whiteman’s artworks communicates visually about the effects of plastic discarded in the marine environment. Plastic debris collected from the Hibberdene beach on the KZN coastline, act as inspiration for a range of large scale sculptures, video installations and photographic prints which constitutes his exhibition. Whiteman contends that art has the capacity to create consciousness about marine plastic pollution in an African context, by means of a multidisciplinary approach to image-making. He argues that art can provide opportunities for creative, critical and personal reflection, in order to draw attention to the destructive effect of plastic. Whiteman’s artistic responses are informed by existing research which stress the problems and difficulties regarding disposal of plastic especially within marine environment habitats, where it affects marine life negatively in the form of fatal entanglement and ingestion.
Whiteman believes that there is a deficit in awareness of the extent to which the marine environmental problem is fully understood and addressed. Contextually, industrialization, globalization and over-population have increased demand for the production of plastic, which is inevitably discarded in our oceans. Manifestations of marine plastic debris are most evident within the world’s five major oceanic gyres. These gyres occupy a total area of 85 million square kilometres of the ocean surface, and contain plastic deposits up to 10 metres thick. The disturbing fact is that it takes 500 to 1000 years for plastic to degrade.
Although environmental rights are entrenched in the South African Constitution, marine plastic pollution continues to be ignored in favour of the more prioritised political, economic and social-security agendas. Whiteman argues that we have a moral imperative to prohibit the continued degradation of the marine environment. Given that the Constitution is framed the on dual agendas of human rights and sustainable development, the role of art, imagination, reflexivity and praxis can help generate ethical values on environmental conservation. Whiteman’s exhibition evokes social awareness of marine plastic pollution and argues the case for marine environmental sustainability through ethical means.
Casper Whiteman is an artist currently working in various sculptural mediums. Whiteman has obtained his National Diploma (2013), and Baccalaureus of Technologiae (2014) in Visual Art from the University of Johannesburg. He is currently a Visual Art Masters student completing his dissertation and exhibition entitled Engaging the plastic tide: a critical visual response to marine plastic pollution.
In 2011, Whiteman received the second prize for the Faculty Wide Curriculum Intervention Campaign at the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture and the Top 80 Artist award in 2012 in the Thami Mnyele, Fine Arts Awards.
In 2013, Whiteman’s work featured at the FADA gallery in the exhibition Some went mad, Some ran away. In 2014 Whiteman was part of a joint exhibition entitled Containing the Unbalanced at the Stop Sign Art Gallery and the exhibition Pulling Roots in a Pop-Up style exhibition at the Bosheuvel Country Estate.
Whiteman currently works within the realm of ecological art, his artistic responses to marine plastic pollution examines the complex effects of plastic detritus found within our oceans. His work is inspired by plastic materials which have been washed onto a section of the South African KZN South Coast. These found materials are generally the small plastic pieces broken off the original plastic product which are easily transported back to Johannesburg, where the artist process these with other materials to form his sculptures and photographs. His practical responses to marine plastic pollution specifically focus on environmental ethics, environmental conservation, pollution and the degradation of ecology and environmental awareness.