There Is No Away (or just a drop in the Ocean) – by Richard Dawson

There Is No Away (T.I.N.A.) is a kinetic sculpture created from reclaimed materials that continuously cycles (and fails to recycle) shredded plastic bottles creating an attractive and hypnotic movement, a ‘waterfall of plastic’.

Though T.I.N.A. appears to be a functional ‘recycling machine’ it actually just cycles the waste material in a pointless loop, wasting energy and achieving nothing. In this way T.I.N.A. is analogous to the current trend for dumping plastic into ‘recycling bins’ as an answer to the problem of plastic pollution rather than actually removing plastic waste from the ‘closed system’ of the environment (or artwork) and the failure of society to accept that ceasing the manufacture of pointless plastic items is a necessary, vital undertaking if the current problems are to be countered.

The artwork is currently a work in progress and will be exhibited at Gallery Oldham as part of Natural: History (a fable of progress), an exhibition exploring the loss of biodiversity, extinction and the Anthropocene. There Is No Away will be developed to become interactive by the addition of a commercial paper shredder converted to shred plastic bottles. This will allow people to ‘recycle’ their plastic bottles into the artwork and hopefully understand that There Is No Away! That whatever is created has to go somewhere and that somewhere is actually the closed system of planet Earth. The expectation is that during exhibition eventually the amount of plastic will overwhelm the device and destroy it.

Above the ‘plastic receiver area’ is a ‘moving ripples sculpture’ through which the shredded bottles will fall (until the sculpture becomes overwhelmed) into the hopper from where it is picked up by the scoops.

The aesthetic of the sculpture reflects the artist’s belief that the Anthropocene started with the advent of the Industrial Revolution (Richard Dawson’s studio is located in a 18th century cotton mill) and that our current faith that science and/or technology will save us is misplaced. A change is a culture at a population and individual level is what is required.

The sculpture is designed in a modular fashion to enable reconfiguration to different spaces and exhibition requirements.

Through monitoring the number of bottles shredded and showing how much plastic waste this equates to and showing the plastic in a ‘non-functional’ form, Richard Dawson believes, adds to the power of the piece and counters the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ ethos of much waste disposal.


I believe that as an artist I cannot find an answer to the problem of plastic pollution so am initially interested in developing a dialogue with scientists/environmentalist and other experts and specialists to increase my knowledge of both the issues and possible solutions. From this dialogue, I aim to develop interesting creative ways to engage a wide audience with the problem and ‘report back’ in surprising ways what I have discovered. I personally believe that many people feel helpless in the face of the universal problem of plastic waste mainly due to its ubiquity and how embedded their use is in our society and culture. This can lead to ‘giving up’ trying to be part of a solution and a feeling of hopelessness or helplessness. As part of any engagement, I believe it is important to communicate accurately the scale of the problem BUT it is vital to offer achievable actions that people can undertake themselves and therefore feel part of the solution rather than part of the problem. What these small actions could be are something I aim to develop in collaboration with a specialist and in partnership with The Universal Sea Team.


Richard Dawson has been trained in 3D design and communicative media. He worked in a number of industries including architecture, toy design, animation, film, theatre and television before focusing on work as a visual artist.

As a visual artist, he produces three-dimensional work including sculpture, kinetic sculpture, installation and furniture plus occasional sound and moving image pieces. Richard Dawson has worked in public art, creative engagement and to commission alongside producing personal work for exhibition.

His current practice is focused on the exploration of Humankind’s Place in ‘Nature’ and the Anthropocene. Richard Dawson has lead projects focusing on environmental engagement with participants of all ages for RSPB Dovestone, RSPB Ribble, Oldham Council, Gallery Oldham, Bolton at Home and Tameside Council. He is a keen amateur naturalist and currently developing creative engagement projects related to native invertebrates (especially pollinators) with CEH and the RSPB in the UK.