Photo by Matthew Joseph : ‘People of the River’, for The Tideway Exhibition Miss March, 2016

Maria Arceo

Maria Jose Arceo is a Spanish artist based permanently in London, who uses installation, sculpture, photography and film to explore close interactions between the human manipulation of the natural world and Nature’s response to these interferences.

From the early stages of her career, Maria’s work has shown strong links with both her childhood fascination for archaeology and oceanography. Her passion for water led her to seek human footprints on all kinds of aquatic environments. In one of her first body of works, she used salt crystals to highlight the problems of human-induced desertification and, in particular, the disappearance of the Aral Sea in Central Asia.

In 1994, after participating in a group exhibition at the Royal Festival Hall in London, the artist suffered a traumatic spinal accident and had to undergo treatment of severe physical therapy to regain full use of her legs. Her first solo exhibition entitled ‘Circuitous’ maps her recovery process and took place in the studio of artist Robyn Denny in London (2007).

Since then, she has participated in numerous art exhibitions, film fairs and festivals. She has also collaborated with architects and scientists in environmental projects related to water. Among these: ‘Biomimicry – coral reef ecoMachines _World Incubators’ with ecoLogicStudio and the AA (Architects Association), in Dubai. ‘Empooling Landscapes’, with the University of East London explored the effects of salt on different construction materials regarding proposals for the design and construction of various structures within the salt marshes of Coto Doña Ana National Park, in Andalusia, Spain.

Beachcombing and mudlarking the Thames for links to past and future, has led her to a new found obsession with the long-term impacts of plastic debris entering both fluvial and marine environments. Her latest line of work utilises discarded plastic objects collected from various locations in the Thames. Her sculptures with these plastics are virtual ‘Time capsules’ preserved and displayed as visual evidence of the long-term properties of these polymers.

In the middle of 2014 Maria was invited to participate in Gustav Metzger’s ‘Facing Extinction Conference’ at Farnham University, as guest speaker on the ‘Global Systems: Food and Water Panel’ and as the spokesperson for the ‘ Biodiversity Panel’. The conference was followed by an interactive exhibition at the Herbert Reed Gallery in Canterbury with an open inaugurational speech by Maria, culminating in a two day Marathon of talks at the Serpentine Gallery: ‘Gustav Metzler: Remember Nature’.

As an outcome of this experience, Arceo was asked by Gustav Metzler to make the opening speech for his installation at the Herbert Reed Gallery in Canterbury.  Later on the same year (November 2014), she was invited to join an international group of 14 women as artist in residence, to cross the Atlantic in a 22-meter sailing research vessel. The purpose of the trip was to collect samples with a trawl net and to investigate the presence of microplastic contaminants on the water’s surface. These were first analysed on board and then shared to a wide range of international research projects such as The Marine Litter Watch (UN Environmental Agency); A Safe Planet Campaign (UNEP); Phytoplankton Secchi Disk Project (Plymouth University); Marine Environmental Research Institute MERI (Maine USA); MTM Research Centre (Örebro University, Sweden).

Since then, Arceo  has participated in a number of far reaching events including ‘The Fall Of the Rebel Angels’ during the 56th Venice Biennale;  The “V Encontro de Artistas Novos” curated by Rafael Doctor at the ‘Cidade da Cultura’ in Santiago de Compostela, (Spain); A participatory installation for ‘Somos Mar’, (following several beach clean-ups of the Galician coast) at the “II Festival Mar De Mares” in La Coruña;  And recently  joining the ArtCop21 global programme of events with ‘Plastic Seas’, a film & performance collaboration with Susana Sanromán that was curated by the ‘SpainNOW’ Festival in London.

At present, Maria is working on various creative responses derived from these experiences, while continuing her research and artistic production in relation to the long lasting properties of these discarded polymers. Her latest project ‘Thames Plastic & the Exploration of Future Dust’ brings together the artist with a wide network of cross-disciplinary partnerships with the mission to creatively inform and scientifically challenge our understanding of the widespread dispersion of plastic debris on both fluvial and marine environments.

14_India_Plastic pile shoe rescue!

2014  _Climbing plastic Mountian @ SWEEEP
Photography: India Roper-Evans