A short train ride from the green canals of Berlin is the Film University of Babelsberg, an impressive steel and glass building rising above outdoor film studios in Potsdam, Germany. Old Berlin, before the allied bombing, is crowded up next to an old cowboy town, where the smell of livestock suggests some of the extras are paid only in food.
Before the Wall came down this was the Film and Television Academy of the GDR, the East German government’s official TV and film studio. Nowadays this is the set for gritty crime dramas like Babylon Berlin, as well as a world-class facility for film studies and artistic research.
In the summer of 2019, Professor Angelica Boehm created a special masterclass here for visual storytellers from around the world that combined science, art, and technology to help address the global problem of plastic pollution, called The Camilla Plastic Ocean Plan.
The multimedia project, created in cooperation with the Alfred Wegener Institute/Heimholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research, brought together many different specialists for the three-day symposium that kicked off the masterclass including artists, scientists, inventors, and philosophers.
According to Professor Boehm and her collaborator Professor Dr. Stefan Winter “when science, art, and technology join forces on the basis of mutual respect, they are able to generate new insights and fulfill their responsibility to society more successfully.”
Although the story itself is based on the discoveries and adventures of young Camilla it is allegorical. Through the combination of writing, film, virtual reality and photography it dares the viewer to dream of possible futures where we do indeed secure a positive environmental legacy for our grandchildren by imagining what kind of planet we all want to live on.
Outside of the story world, the symposium brought together people from around the globe who are shaping our response to the global plastic problem. Biologist Dr. Lars Gutow has been investigating the pollution of the oceans by plastic debris and how this changes the structure and function of the oceans. “We know that micro-plastics interact with our the environment, we are working to understand how”, he said from the stage.
Swedish artist Lina Persson explores how future generations could confront people living today about our unsustainable use of resources, our plastic problem and many other issues using a theoretical time-travel gateway.
The Dung Beetle Project director Jeffrey Barbee presented about changing the narrative around our plastic addiction by using art to help engage people and inspire them to action instead of frightening them. By creating a touring stage, powered by plastic and built with recycled steel to resemble a dung beetle as a symbol of rebirth, the project shows how the philosophical idea of convergence can create real positive change, bringing playfulness and hope even to a problem as big as the plastic crisis.
Renowned philosopher Professor Dr. Stefan Winter, head of the Institute for Artistic Research at the Film University of Babelsberg, believes that only through cross-discipline action can we confront the unsustainable use of the world’s resources and combat the dystopian futures that await inaction. The 20th-century poet William Arthur Ward said it simply, “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it.”
The Camilla Plastic Ocean Plan opens up our imaginations to dream of a planet that is just around the corner, one full of adventure, hope and the possibility of success.
Special thanks to Professor Angelica Boehm, Jurgen Meekel, Jan Schneider, and especially photographer Manuela Clemens who took these images for the symposium.