Ever since Bakelite was promoted as the first synthetic plastic in 1907, the world has been transformed by the fossil fuel derivative. Without plastic, cars would be heavier and guzzle more gas, and polyester shirts would be just a fever dream. In fact, the global production of plastic is expected to triple to 1,124 million tons by 2050, according to the World Economic Forum.

But plastic carries a massive cost. This is starkly revealed by The Plastic Bag Store, an art installation created by New York artist Robin Frohardt and presented by UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance (CAP UCLA). The downtown L.A. art installation, on view from June 30 to July 11, resembles a grocery store. But upon closer inspection, the keen eye will notice that the glossy produce and products — piles of fruit and cupcakes, as well as Instagram-friendly fake items such as Yucky Shards cereal and Bagorade sports drink — are made of bright plastic that was collected from streets and garbage dumps.

Tony Lewis
Award-winning artist Robin Frohardt used discarded, single-use plastic to make the items in The Plastic Bag Store.

The illusion will be compounded several times a day by a puppet film, which was devised by Frohardt and commissioned by CAP UCLA.

Frohardt says she uses humor and performance to dive into areas that would otherwise be “too sad and overwhelming to confront directly.”

She adds, “The Plastic Bag Store is a visually rich 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.”