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Canadian artist Benjamin Von Wong’s latest installation urges world to end single-use plastics

Canadian artist Benjamin Von Wong’s latest installation urges world to end single-use plastics

Monday, November 08, 2021, 17:47 GMT+7
Canadian artist Benjamin Von Wong’s latest installation urges world to end single-use plastics
A photo by Benjamin Von Wong for his ‘Turn off the Plastic Tap’ project calling on people to stop producing single-use plastics.

Benjamin Von Wong, a 34-year-old Canadian artist known worldwide for installations and photographs that call for increased awareness of the importance of environmental protection, is attempting to tackle the topic of single-use plastics with his latest piece. 

Von Wong’s past works include Strawpocalypse – a sculpture depicting the parting of two massive waves made from 168,000 plastic straws in Vietnam, as well as Plastikphobia – a sculpture made from 18,000 plastic cups in Singapore, and Mermaids Hate Plastic - a sculpture of a swimming mermaid which employed over 10,000 plastic bottles in Montreal.

His newest piece, which was created in Montreal and is currently on display in Paris, was built in collaboration with the Embassy of Canada in France and features a water facet which appears to be discharging plastic uncontrollably into the environment, a symbol that he hopes will encourage the world to “turn off the plastic tap.”

“Single-use plastic consumption has gone up by 250 to 300 percent during the pandemic,” Von Wong explained in a blog about the project.

“As an artist and activist, I’m always looking for exciting ways to make the boring problem of plastic pollution more interesting, but those projects only raised awareness for individual objects and never pointed to the root cause of the problem: plastic production.”

“We need to stop producing so many plastic products that are designed to be used for just minutes,” he told Tuoi Tre News via email.

“Municipalities can’t handle it, and that’s why it gets discharged into the environment.”

This latest piece is very much in line with Von Wong’s history of using photography and installation art to alert the world to environmental issues. In this particular case, his message is clear: ‘turn off the plastic tap.’

According to Von Wong, the 'faucet' part of the installation was built from used ventilation ducts scavenged from a building that was about to be demolished.

“I wanted to embody the spirit of ‘reuse’ for this entire project,” he shared.

The ventilation ducts were later cut, painted, and transformed into a faucet as big as a sofa before being tailored to fit a manual forklift and raised into the sky.

A collage of photos shows Benjamin Von Wong (pic on the right) working with used ventilation ducts to create the “faucet” part for his ‘Turn off The Plastic Tap’ project. Photo courtesy of Von Wong.

A collage of photos shows Benjamin Von Wong (R) working with used ventilation ducts to create the 'faucet' part for his ‘Turn off the Plastic Tap’ project. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Von Wong

Photos show Benjamin Von Wong and his team working on a forklift to lift up the faucet. Photo courtesy of Von Wong.

Photos show Benjamin Von Wong and his team working on a forklift to lift up the faucet. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Von Wong

The ‘liquid’ flowing from the faucet was made from curtains of used plastic.

“To collect all the single-use plastics we just used social media, along with the help of a couple local organizations which helped reach out to their members to ask for plastics,” he explained to Tuoi Tre News.

Community support is a common feature in Von Wong’s projects.

"There are people who come every single day onsite to help us clean, tie, and sort all of the plastics,” Von Wong said.

To ensure the project’s spirit of recycling, Von Wong’s dad helped him build a small tool out of wood and a razor blade capable of cutting and converting over 100 plastic bottles into rope that would help tie ‘liquid’ curtains coming from the tap.

Photos show Benjamin Von Wong and his dad converting plastic bottles into rope for the ‘Turn off The Plastic Tap’ project. Photo courtesy of Von Wong.

Photos show Benjamin Von Wong and his dad converting plastic bottles into rope for the ‘Turn off the Plastic Tap’ project. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Von Wong

'A future being stolen'

The Canadian artist documents each of his installations using photography in the hope of reaching a wider audience. 

After finishing the giant tap, Von Wong cherry-picked different locations including a recycling center, a landfill, a beach, a children's playground, and a container yard to bring his installation for photoshoots. 

“Every location was carefully selected based on an aspect of the plastic pollution crisis,” he said.

According to the artist, photos taken at the recycling center aim to highlight not only how important it is to recycle, but also how impossible it is to recycle the volume of plastic being produced.

The landfill shows the scale of the problem and how there is actually no "away” when people “throw trash away.”

“The beach shows where hundreds of millions of pounds of plastic flow every single year, and the container yard talks about how plastic waste is being imported and exported on a global scale,” Von Wong said.

“The playground illustrates a future being stolen away from the next generation.”

A photo by Benjamin Von Wong for his ‘Turn off The Plastic Tap’ project calling on corporations to stop producing single-use plastic.

A photo by Benjamin Von Wong for his ‘Turn off the Plastic Tap’ project calling on people to stop producing single-use plastics.

Von Wong chose to focus his works on environmental issues “because it is something that we all rely on.”

“If the oceans die, we die. 50 percent of the oxygen we breathe comes from the oceans,” he said.

“Similarly, when the oceans rise, and hundreds of millions of people are displaced, think of how it will affect geo-politics? Human suffering? Gender equality? It’s all interconnected."

Whether or not he is making an impact, Von Wong remains unsure.

“It is an asymmetrical relationship, where I create for people that I will most probably never speak with, so you’ll never know whether or not you’ve made a difference’,” he said.

“I think it is important that we do what we can, with the skills that we have.

"And at some point, you need to have faith that if you create work that is well designed and well communicated, it will be discovered and used by those who need it most.

“In our case, we made sure to connect and collaborate with over a dozen different non-profits to connect our art with their calls to action.” 

A collage of photos shows Benjamin Von Wong shooting photos at a landfill for his ‘Turn off The Plastic Tap’ project, with the kid model being Von Wong’s nephew. Photo courtesy of Von Wong.

A collage of photos shows Benjamin Von Wong shooting pictures at a landfill for his ‘Turn off the Plastic Tap’ project, with the kid model being Von Wong’s nephew. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Von Wong

Benjamin Von Wong’s 'Turn off the Plastic Tap' is on display at the Canadian Cultural Center in Paris until November 19.

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Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

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