PLASTISPHERE – by Swaantje Güntzel

We create clean spaces by maintaining the illusion that waste no longer exists once it has been cleared away. All I do is follow the invisible trail back to its source in order to return waste to this cleaned-up space, thus proving that it still exists even when it is elsewhere”.

Swaantje Güntzel´s work addresses the alienated relationship between humanity and nature. She exposes the inconsistencies of our actions and the hypocrisy of our value system, drawing attention to the unthinking exploitation of the environment in the industrialized global economy. For almost 10 years now she has been dealing with the various facets of anthropogenic pollution of the oceans with an emphasis on phenomena such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the emergence of the plastisphere and microplastics. She works conceptually across a range of different disciplines such as performance, sculpture, installation, photography, sound and video. Much of her work is inspired by scientific research. One of the main concerns of her work is to find ways to visualize anthropogenic pollution of the seas and the presence of plastic in our everyday lives with the means of art and to bring it into consciousness. Güntzel´s art practise stems from a deeply held aesthetic position that explores the essential dichotomy between visual pleasure and disturbing global issues. The work is an unsettling critique of modern life in the 21st century.

The proposed project PLASTISPHERE consists of a series of performances/interventions designed for the public space that conceptually investigates the anthropogenic pollution of the oceans and the presence of plastic in our everyday lives.

The goal of PLASTISPHERE is to track down the origins of marine pollution and to bring them into the public imagination. The work aims to give an impulse to the audience to question the state of their respective surrounding environment, especially the state of the oceans in times of a constant global circulation of goods and the inherent side effect of an increasing contamination of the environment by waste and garbage. PLASTISPHERE playfully engages and comments on our consumer and waste management habits, our polluting lifestyles overwhelming the natural world, its consequences for marine life resulting therefrom and our inability to address this global problem.


Promenade/Thessaloniki 2016, cooperation Scheibe & Güntzel

Plastic garbage collected in the archaeological site Galerius Palace in the centre of Thessaloniki/Greece was relocated in the course of an intervention at the promenade of Thessaloniki.




Garbage collected the main square or pedestrian area of a city will be RELOCATED within a performance. The relocation will take place in a popular part of the city which could be a park, a promenade, a plaza, a canal, a lake or a beach. The artist will wear a dark blue retro navy dress and either walk or use a common local transportation vehicle (a bike, horse, carriage, boat, car) while throwing out the garbage. Her movements are slow and solemn. She doesn´t talk while performing. When all the garbage is thrown out she silently disappears. Duration of the performance: 30-45 min.


The artists enter a public bath during the opening hours. She wears a red retro dress and carries several bags filled with common plastic bags. She solemnly walks the edges of the pool and throws the plastic bags into the pool, one after the other. She then climbs the diving tower and starts throwing the bags from up high into the water. When all the bags are in the water she silently disappears. She doesn´t talk while performing. Duration of the performance: 30-45 min.


Depending on the location of the presentation the artists will collect garbage that is connected to water, either on a beach, the shores of a lake or river or close to a public bath. She will then put all the garbage back into the water in one spot (on a beach, a lake or in a pool) and take a bath herself in the middle of the drifting debris wearing an old-fashioned swimsuit and a bathing cap. She will stay on the rotating garbage island for a while, then she gets up and leaves. The garbage will remain in the water. She doesn´t talk while performing. Duration of the performance: 30 – 45 min.

Swaantje Güntzel (*1972) born in Soest/Germany is a Hamburg based conceptual artist. Before entering the School of Fine Arts in Hamburg she lived and worked several years abroad and holds a Masters Degree in Anthropology (University of Bonn). She worked as the assistant of Andreas Slominski and participated in numerous exhibitions in Germany as well as abroad e.g. Goethe-Institut Thessaloniki, Biennial of Contemporary Art Cochabamba/Bolivia, Honolulu Museum of Art/USA, Kunsthaus Nürnberg and has received various grants especially in Scandinavia e.g. Research Grant/Danish Arts Council, Residency Grant Ingmar Bergman Estate Fårö/Sweden, DIVA – Danish Visiting Visual Artist Program, RONDO Atelierstipendium des Landes Steiermark Graz/Austria. In 2015 she won the biannual Ars Loci Art Award from the Neuhoff-Fricke Foundation for the Promotion of Arts and Science

Swaantje Güntzel on Instagram
Interview at ART@Berlin