Plastic bag store art installation features hundreds of fake grocery items made from reclaimed waste
DOWNTOWN — Expiry dates are something shoppers won’t have to worry about when browsing products at The Plastic Bag Store pop-up on Michigan Avenue.
The “store” – which is actually an art installation – features hundreds of fake products created from salvaged trash straight from the trash can and the streets of New York City. Don’t worry, it’s been washed.
The installation is in the Wrigley Building, 400 N. Michigan Ave., for the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival. The Plastic Bag Store was created by award-winning New York puppeteer and artist Robin Frohardt with the help of a small team. It took them over a year to accumulate waste and create products.
“I’m always on the lookout for unusual plastic,” Frohardt said. “There are definitely some colored bags that are rarer.”
The idea for the facility grew out of Frohardt’s experiences with checking out the grocery store and “having someone bag and double all my groceries that were already in bags,” she said.
While researching plastic and “its eternity,” Frohardt “came up with the idea for the story of someone discovering plastic in the future and misinterpreting it,” she said.
An ode to the endless lifespan of plastic, the fully stocked shelves of the fake grocery store are lined with hundreds of items made from various types of repurposed single-use waste, from bags and bottles to caps and cartons. Its aim is to use humor and satire to critique capitalism and shed light on the pitfalls of conspicuous consumption.
Shelves feature reinvented staples like “Shredded Waste” cereal, “Bagorade” sports drink, and “Bagmopolitan” magazine.
There are even “special offers” on items inspired by popular Chicago dishes, like “Aweful Crapple” Caramel Apples, “Polish Kielbagsa” and “Bags” chips.
People can wander the aisles for free during timed entry, or they can purchase a ticket for an immersive three-act puppet film and live experience.
During the live experience, performers pose as clerks and baggers until the lights go out and a Siri-like voice directs customers to the makeshift stage in the center of the shop.
Performers take participants past shelves and through a fake food freezer to a hidden exhibit that draws them into the narrative of the puppet film.
The 60-minute puppet tale explores people’s irresponsible habits and the perilous impact they could have on the Earth and the future of humanity, prompting visitors to consider the waste they leave for future generations.
Fordhardt received a Creative Capital Award and a DisTil Fellowship from Carolina Performing Arts for The Plastic Bag Store. The work was named to the NY Times Best of 2020 Theater list after the exhibit opened last year.
The store opens Thursday, kicking off the fourth Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, which will include more than 100 performances of more than 20 national and local shows and events.
The Plastic Bag Store is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday to Sunday during the festival.
Spread across venues around the city, the puppet festival runs until January 30. go online to see the full festival schedule and get event tickets.
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