Ph.D. Candidate Kelsey Merreck Wagner’s Artwork Featured in Bangkok Art Exhibit

Department of Anthropology Ph.D. candidate Kelsey Merreck Wagner’s artwork is currently featured in Warin Lab Contemporary, an arthouse in Bangkok, Thailand. The exhibit is titled “Threads of Change” and will be on display from April 6th until May 25th, 2024. Kelsey’s work utilizes plastics and other recycled material through the medium of weaving to bring new life to trash.

Per the exhibit description:

“Wagner’s art is shaped by the implementation of recomposing used plastics. Plastics have become increasingly indispensable for humans, from household products, sports gear, and medical equipment to the automotive and construction industries. Plastics are lauded for their durability, versatility in challenging conditions, and cost-effectiveness in manufacturing. In comparison to alternative materials such as glass or metal, plastics are more malleable and require less energy to produce, making them ideal for mass production, which began after the Second World War.

Since the advent of synthetic plastics in the late 1800s, they have supplanted natural materials that were scarcer and more costly to process. With abundant supplies of various plastics, manufacturers can keep pace with rapidly increasing consumption demand while also maintaining economical production costs. Moreover, the adaptability of plastics has allowed countless blueprints to materialize into reality. They have taken on different shapes and forms, finding their way into our daily lives. However, since their emergence, every fragment of plastic still persists on Earth, taking centuries, and thus generations, to decompose.

The textile work by Kelsey Merreck Wagner for the “Threads of Change” exhibition seeks to address the issue further. As an artist deeply engaged with the urgent discourse surrounding climate change, Wagner’s work delves into the visceral experience of environmental transformation through a prism of fiery hues – reds, oranges, and yellows. These colors, reminiscent of flames, are not merely aesthetic choices but symbolic representations of the escalating crisis we face.”

Kelsey’s Ph.D. dissertation involves the role Thai eco-activists play in environmental movements. “The work of these eco-artivists is especially salient in authoritarian contexts,” she says, “where negative discourse about the actions of the government and their corporate partners is heavily silenced and dissent is met with danger. During my fieldwork, I have not only interviewed many of these artists, but also built lifelong friendships and collaborations, including the co-founding of the ART WORMS Mekong Artist Collective. The collective engages in arts-based research along the Mekong River, allowing me the support and resources to continue my trash weaving project with an international team.”

For more information on Warin Lab Contemporary and this exhibit, click here.

To see the Bangkok Post’s coverage of the exhibit, click here.

To see more of Kelsey’s artwork on her website, click here.