Regulated Exhibition

1st October-5th December 2021
Backlit Gallery, Nottingham

A solo exhibition by artist Joshua Sofaer in partnership with the Environment Agency (EA) which investigates the environmental impact of plastic waste and accountability within the arts sector.

This multi-sensory exhibition invited visitors to donate plastic, which was later broken down and sculpted into a plastic human equivalent to the annual amount of per capita plastic waste in the UK: 96.66kg. For the duration of the exhibition, the EA conducted visits to the gallery to regulate, monitor and assess the materials, equipment, and processes against environmental standards.

The work presented emerged out of a residency that artist Sofaer made with the Regulated Industry (East Midlands) branch of the Environment Agency in 2019. Each room provided an insight into the role of the EA in measuring, assessing, and preventing environmental damage, and explores processes of production, fictional narratives and a ‘behind the scenes’ insight into regulated industries.

Regulated Exhibition used the gallery as a space for conversations around material waste produced through art exhibitions and encouraged open discussion and transparency of the carbon footprint and the environmental role of the artist and the gallery.

Curated for Backlit Gallery by Matthew Chesney
Backlit Gallery Deputy Director, Suzanne Golden
Project Curator, Alex-Mobbs Iles
Exhibition Build, Craig Humpston
Casting Lead, Richard Arm
Exhibition Photography, Tom Morley
Environment Agency Practicing Environmental Regulator, Helen Powers and Emma Williams
For Joshua Sofaer Projects, Philippa Barr

Supported using public funding by Arts Council England, Environment Agency, and Arnold Clark.


Giant Disguise by Joshua Sofaer, 2021 (high impact polystyrene). A collection of oversize plastic false noses in primary and secondary colours hang like a display in a fancy-dress shop. Based on Michaelangelo’s David’s ‘ideal’ nose, they reference key exhibition themes of plastic, scale, human form, and smell.

Against Nature 1, 2 & 3 by Alexander Mobbs-Iles, 2021 (PA2200 3D print, water, plastic bottle). Endangered ‘ghost orchids’ (Epipogium aphyllum) in biodegradable plastic provoke questions about the lifespan of natural and fabricated objects.

Last Woman Standing by Joshua Sofaer with Kate Last, 2021 (video duration 14 mins). Kate Last, Regulated Industry Officer, Nottingham talks about her role with the Environment Agency and her passion for wildlife.

Plastic Person by Joshua Sofaer with Richard Arm, 2021. During the exhibition we will cast the body of a volunteer participant who weighs 96.66kg referencing the annual amount of per capita plastic waste in the UK. We will then make a ‘plastic person’ using 96.66kg of recycled plastic. (The density of High-density Polyethylene (HDPE) is within the range 940 to 970 kg/m3. The human body averages a density of 985 kg/m³. There may be a puddle of excess plastic, which would be nice.)

The Perfect Nose by Joshua Sofaer, 2018 (gold-plated copper, silk). A 1:1 gold-plated false nose of Michelangelo’s David’s nose. Considered by some to be a representation of the ‘ideal’ nose, casts of the nose of Michelangelo’s David have been used for many years as teaching tools in drawing classes. Photograph by Hugo Glendinning, 2018.

Nose Display by Joshua Sofaer, 2017 (papier mâché, acrylic paint, Perspex, cotton, stainless steel). A nose display vitrine, bespoke for the face of the artist. Photograph by Hugo Glendinning, 2018.

Fallen Noses by Joshua Sofaer, 2018 (porcelain, unlimited edition). Disembodied noses removed from marble busts as restoration practices change, wander around the gallery in the middle of the night. A reference to the Nasotek at the Glyptotek, Copenhagen.

Phantosmia by Joshua Sofaer, 2021 (freesheet, audio duration 20 mins). A fiction narrated by Environment Agency Regulated Industry Officer, Everal Burrell, in which the protagonist loses and regains his sense of smell.

The work Plastic Person was accessioned by Nottingham Trent University as part of their public art collection and is on display in the City Campus.

Press & Links

"...leaves people to think, to wonder, and to raise curiosity."
Marta Tavares, Leftlion

"Our partnership with BACKLIT and Joshua Sofaer to create Regulated Exhibition has been a fascinating and thought provoking journey providing time for reflection on the work that we do to protect the environment. Promoting a more sustainable future where we use less plastic and embrace the circular economy is critical in helping with the climate emergency and raising awareness within our communities to understand the roles we can play together in moving forward in a more sustainable way. The exhibition not only reflects on the amount of plastic we throw away as individuals but also considers the environmental impact of the exhibition and the factors that pertain to both the creation and exhibition of artwork in general."
Helen Powers, Emma Williams, Environment Agency