Artist Robin Frohardt Considers the Foreverness of Plastic with First Major Public Art Installation and Immersive Puppet Film
The Plastic Bag Store: Thursday, October 22, 2020 – November 7, 2020
Open Wednesdays – Saturdays, 1pm, 3pm, 5pm, 7pm
Free & Open To The Public With Registration
The Plastic Bag Store. Photo by Maria Baranova-Suzuki. Courtesy of Times Square Arts.
(New York, NY – October 13, 2020) – Times Square Arts is excited to announce the official opening of The Plastic Bag Store, an immersive, site-specific public art installation and puppet film by Brooklyn-based artist Robin Frohardt, with original music by Freddi Price and produced by Pomegranate Arts. The Plastic Bag Store—originally slated to open in March 2020, but was postponed due to the pandemic—will now be on view Wednesdays through Saturdays, between October 22 – November 7, 2020 at 20 Times Square, coinciding with the reinstatement of New York’s plastic bag ban—which was put on hold during the pandemic—and goes back into effect on October 19, 2020.
With The Plastic Bag Store, Robin Frohardt employs humor and craft to examine our culture of consumption and convenience, and the enduring effects of single-use plastics. Small groups will enter The Plastic Bag Store for a 60-minute immersive experience, featuring hidden sets and a captivating puppet film that explores how the overabundance of plastic waste we leave behind might be misinterpreted by future generations. Free and open to the public, The Plastic Bag Store brings back a sense of spectacle, theatrics, and entertainment to Times Square, a cultural hub that was always home to Broadway shows, live events, and tourist attractions on every corner. Tickets are free and open to the public — with limited capacity — making each hour-long experience a safe, clean, socially distant one.
"The Plastic Bag Store is a visually rich, tactile, and humorous experience that hopefully encourages a different way of thinking about the foreverness of plastic, the permanence of the disposable, and that there is no ‘away’ when we throw something out,” said artist Robin Frohardt. “It is my attempt to make something authentic and human from that which is mass-produced. There is great humor to be found in the pitfalls of capitalism and I find that humor and satire can be powerful tools for social criticism especially with issues that feel too sad and overwhelming to confront directly."
The Plastic Bag Store artistically reinterprets a typical New York grocery store, but its colorful aisles will be stocked with products created with single-use plastics. Robin Frohardt has upcycled thousands of plastic bags to hand make everyday supermarket products, from pints of ice cream and whole rotisserie chickens to deli items, and cleaning supplies. Throughout the past seven months in quarantine, the artist has taken the time to create new products and experiences for the store, including a cigarette rack displaying brands like Marlbags and Lucky Bags and a reimagined puppet show through a new puppet film — which is central to the immersive installation — and will be released in full in the spring of 2021.
“Robin’s ability to take a long view on our cultural legacy feels timely – within the unassuming and completely amusing proposal of a ‘Plastic Bag Store,’ she is addressing capitalism, consumerism, and climate change, and asking big questions about how what we value the least can become our most consequential inheritance. Yet through those questions, she also inspires us to believe that while some histories may be destined to repeat themselves, not all of them have to,” said Times Square Arts Director Jean Cooney.
The Plastic Bag Store’s opening – which like New York’s plastic bag ban, was paused by COVID until this October – is a reminder that in this fraught political and environmental landscape, on both a policy and personal level, there is an increasing urgency to understand the legacies we are passing on to future generations, and how our culture of convenience will have an impact on this earth for many years to come. In The Plastic Bag Store, Robin tackles these global concerns and the concept of ‘forever’ through the lens of a single plastic bag.
“At a time when we are whiplashed daily by the news of the day, Robin’s work prods us, with creativity and wit, to think not just about the next two weeks, but also about the next two decades and the next two centuries,” said Tim Tompkins, President of the Times Square Alliance. “What will remain hundreds of years hence? In Times Square, we hope that our legacy will be plays rather than piles of plastics, shows rather than scraps, imagination rather than excess.”
Tompkins added that the opening “is also symbolically important and represents the resilience of Times Square. Days after we learned that Broadway will remain closed longer than expected, this theatrical event is a reminder that the creation of art continues unabated here, and that Times Square remains a focal point for the exploration of critical issues.” He noted that “it affirms that art and culture and communal experiences – which people are yearning for – will ultimately be the drivers that bring back the 130 million people annually that have historically come to Times Square.”
Times Square pedestrian counts, while still down from historic levels, have already rebounded to daily averages of 140,000 people (more, for example, than the pre-COVID attendance of Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center and Animal Kingdom combined).
The Plastic Bag Store will be free and open to the public. Due to COVID-19 social distancing and capacity measures, prior registration is required. The Plastic Bag Store has developed comprehensive safety measures and enhanced cleaning procedures for visitors and staff, following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), New York State, and New York City. All visitors will be required to wear a face covering and practice social distancing by maintaining at least six feet from others. Hand sanitizer stations will be provided throughout the store.
For those who aren’t able to visit The Plastic Bag Store in-person, stay tuned for more information on virtual visits, and a feature-length film to be released in spring of 2021 commissioned by UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance.
ABOUT ROBIN FROHARDT
Robin Frohardt. Photo by Maria Baranova-Suzuki. Courtesy of Times Square Arts.
Robin Frohardt is an award-winning artist, puppet designer, and director living in Brooklyn, NY. Frohardt’s performance and puppetry-based work has been presented at St. Anne’s Warehouse and HERE in New York City, as well as national venues including the Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts and the NEXTNOW Festival in Maryland. Her films have been screened at the Telluride Film Festival, Maritime Film Festival, and the Parish Museum. Her original play The Pigeoning, which debuted in 2013 and was hailed by the New York Times as “a tender, fantastical symphony of the imagination,” continues to tour in the US and abroad, and has been translated into German, Greek, Arabic and Turkish. She has received a Creative Capital Award and a DisTil Fellowship from the University of North Carolina for The Plastic Bag Store; has been the recipient of Made In NY Woman’s Fund Grant Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, MacDowell Colony Fellowship; and was the first artist in Residence at Olson Kundig, a renowned design and architecture firm in Seattle. In addition to directing her own work, Frohardt’s puppetry and props have also appeared in TV shows such as Orange is the New Black and 30 Rock, as well as Radio City Music Hall’s Spring Spectacular.
ABOUT TIMES SQUARE ARTS
Times Square Arts, the public art program of the Times Square Alliance, collaborates with contemporary artists and cultural institutions to experiment and engage with one of the world's most iconic urban places. Through the Square's electronic billboards, public plazas, vacant areas and popular venues, and the Alliance's own online landscape, Times Square Arts invites leading contemporary creators to help the public see Times Square in new ways. Times Square has always been a place of risk, innovation and creativity, and the Arts Program ensures these qualities remain central to the district's unique identity. Generous support of Times Square Arts is provided in part by the National Endowment for the Arts; by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Visit www.timessquarenyc.org/arts for more information. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @TSqArts.
ABOUT POMEGRANATE ARTS
Founded by Linda Brumbach in 1998, Pomegranate Arts is an independent production company based in New York City dedicated to the development of international performing arts projects. As a creative producing team, Pomegranate Arts works in close collaboration with contemporary artists and arts institutions to bring bold and ambitious artistic ideas to fruition. With a hands-on approach, Pomegranate creates unique structures and partnerships in all performance mediums. Whether creating a new work with established artists at the peak of their career or introducing the vision of a younger artist, Pomegranate specializes in producing provocative performance events of the highest quality.
ABOUT 20 TIMES SQUARE
The Plastic Bag Store would not be possible without the generous support of Mark Siffin, CEO of Maefield Development, which owns 20 Times Square. For more than a decade, Siffin has delivered passionate support for the Times Square community and the Alliance. As a life-long artist himself, Siffin consistently embraces the importance of young artists being presented to the 127MM-person pedestrian audience that Times Square delivers every year. 20 Times Square is at the epicenter of this activity and serves as the show case stage in our daily celebration of our shared humanity. “47th and 7th is a corner where the arts have lived for over a century,” said Tim Tompkins, President of the Times Square Alliance. “Mark Siffin’s significant commitment here supports Broadway, the live arts and the visual arts in Times Square. These are the life blood of our community, and they also happen to enrich the largest concentration of consumers in the world. There is no better place to democratize art than Times Square. In his support, Siffin drives our mission, understanding that innovative culture and vibrant commerce are the essential elements that make Times Square one of the most enduring entertainment, hospitality and retail destinations in the world.”
CREDITS AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
The Plastic Bag Store is commissioned by Times Square Arts with generous support provided by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Arts; the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, as well as Maefield Development and Mark Siffin at 20 Times Square. Additional commissioning support has been provided by Carolina Performing Arts, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It was developed with support from: MANA Contemporary, The Made in NY Women’s Film, TV & Theatre Fund by the City of New York Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment in association with The New York Foundation for the Arts; Olson Kundig; The Jim Henson Foundation; and is sponsored, in part, by the Greater New York Arts Development Fund of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, administered by Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC). The Plastic Bag Store film segments were commissioned by the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA with additional support by the Adelaide Festival. The Plastic Bag Store is a project of Creative Capital. Produced by Robin Frohardt and Pomegranate Arts.
For more information, please visit: www.tsq.org/arts.
Senior Account Executive, Cultural Counsel
Account Coordinator, Cultural Counsel