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Plastic Bag Store Art Installation Features Hundreds Of Fake Grocery Items Made From Salvaged Garbage

The fake store, which is in the Wrigley Building on Michigan Avenue through Jan. 30, features reimagined staples like “Shredded Waste” cereal and “Bagorade” sports drink. Also: a puppet show.

The Plastic Bag Store is an installation that features hundreds of items made from plastic salvaged from the trash.
Izzy Stroobandt/Block Club Chicago
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DOWNTOWN — Expiration dates are one thing shoppers won’t need to worry about while browsing products at The Plastic Bag Store pop-up on Michigan Avenue.

The “store” — which is really an art installation — features hundreds of fake products created from salvaged trash straight out of the bin and 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 more than a year to accumulate trash and create products.

“I’m always on the hunt for unusual plastic,” Frohardt said. “There’s definitely certain colored bags that are more rare.”

Credit: Izzy Stroobandt/Block Club Chicago
Fake chicken drumsticks made of plastic bags are “on sale” at The Plastic Bag Store.

The idea for the installation was born from Frohardt’s experiences with checking out at the grocery store and “having someone bag and double bag all my groceries that were already in bags,” she said. 

While researching plastic and “its foreverness,” Frohardt “got the idea for the story of someone discovering plastic in the future and misinterpreting it,” she said. 

An ode to the infinite lifespan of plastic, the faux grocery store’s fully stocked shelves are lined with hundreds of items fashioned out of various types of repurposed, single-use garbage, 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.

The shelves feature reimagined staples like “Shredded Waste” cereal, “Bagorade” sports drink and “Bagmopolitan” magazine. 

There are even “specials” on items inspired by popular Chicago foods, like “Aweful Crapple” caramel apples, “Polish Kielbagsa” and “Bags” potato chips. 

People can wander the aisles during a timed entry for free, or they can buy a ticket to an immersive, three-act puppet performance film and a live experience.

Credit: Izzy Stroobandt/Block Club Chicago
The Plastic Bag Store also features a live performance and puppet film.

During the live experience, performers pose as clerks and baggers until the lights dim and a Siri-like voice directs patrons to the makeshift stage at the center of the store. 

Performers take attendees past shelves and through a freezer of fake foods to a hidden exhibit that pulls them into the puppet film’s narrative. 

The 60-minute puppet tale explores people’s irresponsible habits and the perilous impact they could have on Earth and humanity’s future, challenging visitors to consider the waste they leave behind 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 following the exhibit’s opening last year. 

The store opens Thursday, kicking off the fourth Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, which will include more than 100 performances from more than 20 national and local shows and events. 

The Plastic Bag Store is open 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 1-3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday during the festival.

Spread out at venues around the city, the puppet festival runs through Jan 30.  Go online to see the festival’s full schedule and get tickets to events.

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