Art has the power to change the world, and no one knows this better than photographer Benjamin Von Wong, who has dedicated his entire career to push his own creative boundaries and produce controversial art pieces with a powerful social message. Von Wong is focusing on raising awareness on how much waste we produce, and for his latest installation, he’s focusing on a very common phrase: “It’s just one straw, said 8 billion people.”

But how many plastic straws are we exactly throwing away every day? Get ready to get your mind blown.

Straws are not only really hard to recycle, but there are over 500 million plastic straws being used collectively every single day in the United States alone. And that number is about to get much worse, unless we do something about it.

Not too long ago, the ban on plastic straws went into effect around the United States, and people had a lot to say about it.

And even though the number is jaw-dropping all by itself, Von Wong took it one step further and took thousands of plastic straws and photographed them in a way that could show just how big of a problem we’re talking about.

The plastic straw ban had a lot of people questioning how one little straw could affect anyone, after all, couldn't they just recycle them?

But the Plastic Pollution Coalition estimates people expect to have plastic straws at every single cafe, restaurant, coffee shop, and ice cream shop, which encourage people to use them once and then immediately throw them away, which is insanely wasteful.

Von Wong is no stranger to controversial pieces. In 2018, he came up with the world's tallest closet, where he hung 3,000 items of clothing.

He wanted to showcase how much the average person consumes. Von Wong is a total pro at turning numbers into stunning art pieces that allow us to visualize these statistics. It's one thing to say "500 million straws" and another thing to see them plastered all over a powerful art installation, like Von Wong's Strawpocalypse.

The photographer with a conscience wants the public to see how tiny decisions can have a huge impact.

So instead of making it easy on himself, he took the road less traveled and came up with a way to gather plastic straws for his works of art that didn't involve buying them online, which he could've easily done.

Von Wong collaborated with a team of volunteers, Saigon Zero Waste, and Starbucks Vietnam, and was able to gather 168,000 plastic straws over the span of six months.

He wanted people to realize we have an "out of sight, out of mind" mentality that makes this environmental tragedy even worse. Von Wong says, “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.”

In order for his installation, "Parting of the plastic sea" to come into life, Von Wong relied on a team of volunteers who lent him a helping hand.

Over the course of two weeks, they washed the straws by hand, and sort them out by color. Yes, all 168,000 plastic straws! Now that's a lot of work, but judging from the results, it was damn worth it.

Von Wong and his team of volunteers separated the green, black, and blue straws so they could make out the body of the ocean.

Then, they used the transparent straws to create transitions and fill out different areas. This 100% upcycled installation used plastic bags to support the straws and LED light diffusers. The skeleton of the sculpture, which was around 11 feet tall, was the perfect canvas for Von Wong's Strawpocalypse. The straws were arranged in a way that imitated Monet's art: from far away, you wouldn't be able to visualize them as straws, you'd actually mistake them for paint strokes.

If you happen to be around Estella Place in Ho Chi Minh, don't miss out Von Wong's impressive Strawpocalypse. The full installation will be opened until March 24, 2019, so don't miss out on this colorful work of art that packs a mighty punch and raises awareness about one hell of an important issue.

You can see more of Von Wong's work on his website, Facebook, and YouTube.

Sources:
My Modern Met,
Von Wong / YouTube

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