It was the early 1990s, Stella Wedell was on a holiday to Spain, exploring the Costa Brava resort of Empuriabrava as well as the island of Mallorca when she realised that her beloved mixtape featuring some of her favourite songs in the world was missing. She searched in vain, but was confident that it was gone forever, likely left on a beach somewhere. So imagine her surprise when she discovered it over 20 years later as part of an art exhibition that she visited in Stockholm.
The tape had been recovered by photographer and artist Mandy Barker and used as part of an exhibition on plastic pollution in the world’s oceans. It had washed up on the beach in 2017 at Playa de Barlovento de Jandía, Fuerteventura, more than 2000km from where it has last been seen by Stella. It was on display at Fotografiska between June and August last year, with the project also including 46 other works by Mandy.
Mandy even went as far as having the tape brought back to life by a professional audio restorer, and was able to listen to all of the songs. It has 20 classic songs indicative of when it was made, including Bob Marley’s Iron Lion Zion, Oh Carolina by Shaggy and Go West by Pet Shop Boys. The cassette was displayed in a glass case alongside a track listing.
Mandy was shocked to receive an email from Stella after she had visited the exhibition in Sweden. She had recognised the tape and checked the track listing against the CD she had bounced it from, discovering that they were indeed a match.
“To be honest I couldn’t quite believe it for a while. Even after getting the tape to play, it was then an astounding chance for Stella to walk into my exhibition and recognise her tape. I thought the cassette could perhaps be missing the first couple of songs because the tape had been pulled out. But the restorer I worked with assures me that what he has recovered was the beginning of the tape and there was nothing missing before that,” Mandy said.
While the story is a nostalgic tale of lost and found, Mandy points out that it perfectly highlights the issue of plastic pollution and how long materials are present for.
More of Mandy Barker’s work is available at her official website.