Shop in a dystopian supermarket at Adelaide Festival’s The Plastic Bag Store

New York City artist Robin Frohardt has made a grocery store exhibition out of her native city’s plastic rubbish in Rundle Mall.

Adelaidians thought they’d see less single-use plastic in supermarkets once South Australia’s ban comes into effect on March 1, but New York City artist Robin Frohardt had another idea.

Frohardt’s Adelaide Festival exhibition, The Plastic Bag Store, features a mock grocery store made out of reused, “single” use plastic items. There are cakes and vegetables made out of bubble wrap and bags, and Australian household brands such as Vegemite and Tim Tams cheekily transformed into Bagemite and Bag Bags.

The Plastic Bag Store performer Tyler Gunther––who donned an apron and a faux performer name tag that read “Conrad”––– says the message is about environmentalism.

“A lot of it is about the permanence of plastic,” Gunther says. “We use it as a single-use object and then throw it away, but it actually lasts forever because plastic doesn’t decompose in our lifetimes.”

“Robin was saying her coffee stirrer from 1994 is still out there,” he says. “It’s unimaginable, but every single item of plastic we’ve used is still somewhere, even if it’s broken down into smaller pieces.”

The supermarket––which features a bakery, a frozen food section, produce and more––was created entirely from New York City rubbish.

“We had different people we knew collecting their single-use plastics and bags in New York and then we’d clean it and categorise it,” Gunther says.

Laughing, he adds: “We also dug through a lot of trash cans.”

The exhibition also includes a theatrical element, with films of puppet shows depicting a journey of plastic from ancient to modern times.

“There’s an interactive portion that’s hidden, secret rooms and a secret performance that only the audience gets to experience,” Gunther says.

While The Plastic Bag Store initially opened in New York, it got shut down due to COVID shortly thereafter, so Adelaide is the exhibition’s first long-standing debut.

“This is sort of our grand opening after four years now of working on it,” Gunther says.

“It’s great to be in Australia.”

The exhibition is located on Level 1 of Rundle Place in Rundle Mall from 23 Feb – 14 March. Entry is free.

Learn more about The Plastic Bag Store here.

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