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Giant garbage patches of the sea become 'national' art in Venice

VENICE - Five huge patches of rubbish floating in seas around the world will have their own unofficial national pavilion on the sidelines of the world's largest non-commercial art fair in Venice this week, thanks to artist Maria Cristina Finucci.

These "garbage patches" are areas of high marine debris concentrated in the North Pacific Ocean, the exact size and content of which are hard to define, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Finucci, 56, says one of these areas is as large as Texas and 30 meters deep even though the patches are mostly invisible to the naked eye as the debris—chiefly plastic—breaks down over time, without ever fully disappearing.

To draw attention to the phenomenon, the Italian-born Finucci brought hundreds of bags full of water and multicolored plastic bottletops to U.N. culture agency UNESCO. The Paris-based agency granted the "Garbage Patch State" symbolic statehood in April.

Part of the installation "The Garbage Patch State" by Italian artist Maria Cristina Finucci is pictured during Venice's 55th La Biennale, May 28. The exhibition runs till September 15. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
"My intention is to make tangible, by means of a unique yet simple concept, a reality which is, unfortunately, rather complicated," said Finucci.

For the presentation to the U.N., the bags of water and plastic were arranged in front of a 30-foot (9-meter) mirror. This created the illusion there were twice as many of them, and obliged the viewers to see their reflection in the installation and become part of it.

"Behind every tiny piece that makes up the Garbage Patch, there is someone who threw that piece away," said Finucci.

Finucci has collaborated with Ca' Foscari University of Venice to set up a Garbage Patch State pavilion to coincide with the Biennale, a 118 year-old art and culture extravaganza to which more than 50 countries—from Turkey to Tuvalu—send artists.

In the canal city, the Garbage Patch State will be represented by two five-square meter (16 square foot) cubes covered in a reflective coating which, Finucci says, makes them "almost invisible, like the real Garbage Patch."

A red net full of bright plastic bottletops emerges from one of the cubes, coursing over a nearby wall in the direction of Venice's Grand Canal.

Inside the other cube, a video projected at 360 degrees onto the walls makes the viewer feel as though they're in a "plastic soup."

Finucci hopes that her illustration of pollution hidden from view below the surface of the ocean will prompt people to take more care when disposing of plastic rubbish.

"I don't want to give an apocalyptic message. I want to give direction for good behavior." — Reuters