CPNAS - Cultural Programs of the National Academy of Sciences
Print Page


By Maris Polanco

January 1, 2020 - June 15, 2020

NAS Building, 2101 Constitution Ave., N.W., West Court

Free. Photo ID required.

Made from plastic bags sourced from Maris Polanco and her friends over the course of three months, this larger than life-size jellyfish points toward the issue of plastic in the ocean and the dangers it presents for ocean wildlife. Floating in ocean tides, these not-so-ephemeral wisps of plastic resemble a favorite snack of many large sea creatures—jellyfish. The consequences of such mistaken identity are dire. A pilot whale dies, malnourished, with 20 pounds of plastic bags in her stomach. More than half of all sea turtles appear to have eaten plastic bags, thinking they were jellyfish. 

Plastic bags are used for an average of 12 minutes, yet scientists estimate that they take 500 to 1000 years to degrade. Even then, the plastic never completely breaks down, making it a truly “eternal” substance. When plastic disintegrates from UV radiation, its pieces litter the tides in the form of micro-plastic, enter the food chain at the microscopic level, and then accumulate through biological magnification at successive levels up the food chain.

The notorious longevity of plastic and the amazing longevity of certain jellyfish species (Turritopsis dohrnii is known as an immortal jellyfish because it can revert to an immature stage after reaching maturity indefinitely) make for an interesting, albeit macabre, marriage of ideas. Polanco is a Colombian-American scientist, musician, and artist based in Detroit.

The ETERNAL Experience For Kids and Families

This website features projects developed by the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center and artist Maris Polanco that parents can do with their kids to learn about the dangers of plastic to the environment.  There are videos on careful looking, several hands on craft activities, and a children's book titled Maris and the Plastic Jellyfish. http://www.eternalthejellyfish.org/



Maris Polanco, ETERNAL, 2019, approximately 1,200 plastic bags, 60 feet long, commissioned by the Science Gallery Detroit for their 2019 exhibition, Depth, on loan from the artist.

Copyright © 2024. National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. 500 Fifth St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001.
Privacy Statement | Institutional Policies and Procedures | Terms of Use
Powered by Blackbaud
nonprofit software