Plastic Heart: Surface All the Way Through

Plastic Heart: Surface All the Way Through

Art Museum at the University of Toronto

Pre-production plastic pellets collected in foil for persistent organic pollutant (POP) analysis, 2018. Photo: Synthetic Collective.

August 30, 2021
Plastic Heart: Surface All the Way Through
Organized by the Synthetic Collective
September 8–November 20, 2021
Art Museum at the University of Toronto
15 King’s College Circle
Toronto Ontario M5S 3H7
Hours: Tuesday–Saturday 12–5pm,
Wednesday 12–8pm

T +1 416 978 8398
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Works by Christina Battle, IAIN BAXTER&, Sara Belontz, Leticia Bernaus, J Blackwell, Amy Brener, Hannah Claus, Sully Corth, Heather Davis and Kirsty Robertson, Aaronel deRoy Gruber, Fred Eversley, Naum Gabo, General Idea, Kelly Jazvac, Woomin Kim, Kiki Kogelnik, Les Levine, Mary Mattingly, Christopher Mendoza, Tegan Moore, Skye Morét, Meagan Musseau, Claes Oldenburg, Meghan Price, Françoise Sullivan, Catherine Telford-Keogh, Lan Tuazon, Marianne Vierø, Joyce Wieland, Nico Willliams, Kelly Wood.

Plastic Heart is an experimental exhibition that examines plastic as art material, cultural object, geologic process, petrochemical product, and a synthetic substance fully entangled with the human body. The exhibition includes new commissions, historical and contemporary artworks that relate to plastic as a politically loaded material, and investigations into the paradoxes of plastic conservation in museum collections. The exhibition acknowledges plastics as both lubricants of artistic, gallery, and museum practices and also as “wicked problems,” made even more complex by their use and discard in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Plastic Heart mobilizes practices of institutional critique and proposes alternative methods of exhibition development and presentation that address ecology and sustainability in content and form. Seeking to stimulate viewers to be active subjects, the exhibition challenges received modes of art-making and viewing that are deeply dependent on fossil fuels. It also features data visualizations of a study conducted by the Synthetic Collective that provides a first-ever snapshot of post-industrial microplastics pollution on the shores of the Great Lakes. This exhibition links scientific and artistic methodologies to show how arts-based approaches to thinking and working can make viable contributions to environmental science and activism.

Public Programs:

Plastic Pollution, Toxicity, and Policy Change
Wednesday, September 15, 6–7:30pm EDT
With Vanessa Gray, Christopher Hilkene, Michelle Murphy, Chelsea Rochman
Moderated by Heather Davis

Plastic Pollution in the Laurentian Great Lakes: Industry and Invisibility
Wednesday, October 6, 6–7:30pm EDT
With Ian Arturo, Sara Belontz, Mary Mattingly, Tegan Moore, Alice (Xia) Zhu
Moderated by Kelly Jazvac 

The Plastic Conservation Conundrum: Preserving Plastics in Museum Collections and Plastics’ Durability in the Environment
Wednesday, October 13, 6–7:30pm EDT

With Courtney Asztalos, Roger Griffith, Sherry Phillips, Lorena Rios Mendoza
Moderated by Kelly Jazvac

Sustainable Museums
Wednesday, October 27, 2–3:30pm EDT
With Suzanne Carte, Maya Ishizawa, Sarah Sutton
Moderated by Kirsty Robertson

All programs will be held online. For more information, visit

Virtual Spotlights
Commissioned essays, artist interviews, and video content offering a deep dive into the themes explored in the exhibition. New content launches monthly on

About the Synthetic Collective
The Synthetic Collective is an interdisciplinary collaboration between visual artists, scientists, and cultural workers. They work to sample, map, understand, and visualize the complexities of plastics and micro-plastics pollution in the Great Lakes Region. Synthetic Collective is Kelly Jazvac, Kirsty Robertson, Kelly Wood, Patricia Corcoran, Heather Davis, Tegan Moore, Sara Belontz, Lorena Rios Mendoza, Kathleen Hill, and Ian Arturo. 

About the Art Museum at the University of Toronto
The Art Museum is one of the largest gallery spaces for visual art exhibitions and programming in Toronto. The Art Museum originates and organizes an intensive year-round program of exhibitions and events that foster—at a local, regional, and international level—innovative research, interdisciplinary scholarship, and knowledge of art and its histories befitting Canada’s leading university and the country’s largest city.

Our supporters
The Art Museum gratefully acknowledges operating support from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Toronto Arts Council with additional project support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Jackman Humanities Institute.

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Art Museum at the University of Toronto
August 30, 2021

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