Modeled after Bild Lilli, the saucy German cartoon and novelty doll for men, Barbie launched in 1959 and is sold in 150 countries at a rate of 100 per a minute, totaling 58 million dolls purchased per year. Because she is molded from a variety of plastics, Barbie is a No. 7 non-recyclable or “other plastic.” Scientists believe she will not degrade for 1,000 years. Given predictions of impending environmental collapse and human extinction, Barbie may outlive us all.
As a future artifact of human civilization Barbie may relay a wish that we, too, could be made artificially eternal. Where we once desired gods with human origins, we now prefer object-icons. Barbie can be read as a symbol of our desire to shed the biological burdens of breathing, eating, sleeping, defecating, and dying.
“Plastic Lives” imagines the post-human Barbie. Here, she is stripped of her familiar environments and manufactured accessories. The doll floats in water or crude oil to reiterate her petrochemical origins. The seven figures are abstracted (“othered”) and lit by LED lights shifting through seven colors within seven reclaimed wooden boxes. The light pulses through the icon in an artificial echo of human life.