Conceptual artist Benjamin Von Wong recently completed the “The Parting of the Plastic Sea,” a massive straw art installation created to “encourage people to turn down their next straw.”
Known for his hyper-realist style, the Asian Canadian, who is also a photographer, revealed in his blog that he wanted to focus on the growing problem on plastic straws as he believes that people can still do something to help, “even if it’s something as small as saying ‘No Straw please’.”
“Straws are virtually impossible to recycle in most places around the world because of how light and small they are. They’re also one of the easiest products to turn down at a bar, cafe or restaurant,” Wong wrote.
“My vision was to take used straws, collected, washed, organized and stuck onto pieces of recycled plastics to create a piece to ignite conversations about the plastic ocean that we’re currently creating.”
With the help of Zero Waste Saigon and hundreds of volunteers, Wong embarked on creating his very first art installation in Vietnam in the span of six months.
“After weeks of hard work, we got even luckier. Starbucks Vietnam heard about our efforts and offered to put their resources at our disposal and set us up with daily collection points across various Starbucks all over Ho Chi Minh City.”
A total of 168,000 used straws were gathered, cleaned and set up to a rib-like structure custom built by a local set designer.
The jaw-droppingart installation, promoted via the hashtag #Strawpocalypse, was eventually set up for public viewing at the atrium of Estella Place, a new mall in District 2, Ho Chi Minh City.
The 3.3-meter (+10-ft) tall sea of plastic straws was illuminated by an orange sun behind a white “sky” of plastics.
“The plastic problem is either out of sight, out of mind – or so omnipresent that it becomes invisible. I wanted to use art to tackle both angles – by creating something beautiful and unique out of an environmental tragedy,” Wong said.
“Although this installation is made from straws, it isn’t just about straws. It’s about taking a first step towards paying attention to the plastic epidemic threatening the oceans we rely on.”
“Saying ‘no’ to a plastic straw is a way that each person can have a positive impact on protecting the environment,” Zero Waste Saigon founder Julia Mesner said. “Plastic straws are one of the most useless waste because it is unnecessary for most people. Our motto is ‘Every action counts.’ By making a small action today it will lead people to bigger actions that will change the world for the better.”
“The #strawpocalypse project is one that is of great significance in this day and age,” project coordinator Don Le told NextShark. “I’m happy to be able to help coordinate this shoot with Von Wong, who is not only an amazing friend but a true environmental artist.”
The installation will remain at Estella Place until March 24, when it will be looking for a new home. Any company, institution or museum interested in sponsoring the structure may reach Wong via email.
Many people might not know this, but NextShark is a small media startup that runs on no outside funding or loans, and with no paywalls or subscription fees, we rely on help from our community and readers like you.
Everything you see today is built by Asians, for Asians to help amplify our voices globally and support each other. However, we still face many difficulties in our industry because of our commitment to accessible and informational Asian news coverage.
We hope you consider making a contribution to NextShark so we can continue to provide you quality journalism that informs, educates, and inspires the Asian community. Even a $1 contribution goes a long way. Thank you for supporting NextShark and our community.