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‘Futureland’ reveals global shipping industry’s effect on environment

Paintings of everyday objects floating in bright blue seas hang from hooks against the white walls of Fort Point Arts Community’s gallery. A wooden crate filled with images of bananas lies on the floor and causes viewers’ eyes to wander to all corners of the room.

The installation, called “Futureland,” was created by Mea Duke and Douglas Breault and opened last Thursday. The work will remain up until Feb. 2.

Futureland includes an array of pieces from oil paintings to print making and sculptures. Each piece shows the effects of the shipping industry on the environment. One canvas shows shipping containers plummeting into the ocean off of a sinking ship, and another displays unripe bananas strewn across a frozen body of water.

According to Duke, each piece was based on an actual event when shipping systems failed. Duke and Breault chose to focus on mundane items and the ships that delivered them across the world to demonstrate consumers’ connection to the shipping industry.

“No one ever really thinks about how your items and objects arrive at your house — like bananas don’t grow in Massachusetts, but yet people eat bananas every day,” Breault said. “So think about how does that get here, who makes it get here, and under what conditions does it get here?”

Breault said he hopes the art raises people’s curiosity about the transportation of foods and other objects.

“There’s this thing called sea blindness –– an out of sight out of mind type of thing,” Breault said. “We don’t see how all these things traverse the world, so one of the things we were thinking about was, ‘What are the effects of [shipping], and what does it look like?’”

After conducting research to find shipping accidents, they chose items like Doritos, detergent and plastic bags.

“I did all these still lifes with objects that I thought were interesting, like how bananas are shipped unripened and green, and there’s chemicals in the container that make them ripe,” Breault said. “These things are sort of alien and peculiar.”

Duke has spent about two and a half years researching the shipping industry, and she said she found that many consumers knew little about where their possessions came from. She said that as the industry continues to grow and stakes rise, consumer awareness gains importance.

“[The shipping industry] is really out of sight,” Duke said. “The bigger it gets, the farther it gets pushed away from population centers, but 90 percent of everything comes out of shipping.”

The pair chose to name the installation Futureland after Europe’s largest seaport: the Port of Rotterdam. The port’s visitor center is called FutureLand, and Duke spent time at the port while researching the shipping industry.

“I think the name itself is really bizarre,” Breault said. “It sounds fictional, so the fact that it was real, there’s this sort of play on things that are real and also futuristic in some way.”

Despite attending the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University for graduate school together, Breault and Duke joined forces for the first time to create “Futureland.” The two shared an interest in the shipping industry, but according to Duke, their styles vary significantly.

Duke said she believes their differences strengthened the exhibition and caused her to grow as an artist. Duke said she is a precise and detail-oriented person, so Breault’s riskier approach towards his pieces pushed her.

“We both want to make the viewer a little unstable … whether that be a balance issue or an event that is extreme to think about,” Duke said. “We differ [in] how we handle those things. Doug literally bounces things to make you feel uneasy. … I get a lot of courage from Doug.”

Brian Harkins, 62 of Revere Beach, said he appreciated the uniqueness of the installation. Rather than framed paintings hanging within a typical gallery, Harkins liked the hooks that paintings hung on.

“I think it shows that people have the ability to take and present what they have as thoughts and images in their minds, and present it in a medium that’s workable, unique and affordable for them,” Harkins said. “You don’t have to have everything on a stretcher and in a frame.”

Harkins also said he found “Futureland” to be a refreshing change from more traditional art.

“[Futureland] is something a little different,” Harkins said. “It’s not like walking down Newbury Street … where it’s all hoity toities –– and some of that stuff is wonderful –– or, you know, the overpriced glam art.”

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