Benjamin Von Wong : Monumental ART-ivism
From October 7 to November 19, the Canadian Cultural Centre presents a new work by Toronto-based activist artist Benjamin Von Wong. #TurnOffThePlasticTap offers a spectacular metaphor for our world drowned by plastic. Review of the work of an artist and activist who uses the grandiose to raise awareness.
How not to feel concerned by the ocean plastic pollution when your country has the longest coastline in the world with 202 080 km of coastline? It is around this theme that the Canadian Cultural Centre wished to work for the reopening of its gallery. While Canadians throw away more than 3 million tons of waste each year, the embassy has vowed to participate in raising awareness about our consumption of single-use plastic by commissioning Benjamin Von Wong to create a work of international scope.
The Toronto-based artist has gained international recognition, both in the contemporary art world and in the public eye on Instagram, for his monumental works made of plastic waste.
His outsized art confronts us with the magnitude of plastic pollution. Conceived as a work that extends through the interpretation of other artists and the public, #TurnOffThePlasticTap carries a strong symbolic message: an injunction to turn off this tap whose flow of plastic detritus threatens to drown us.
The consumption of single-use plastic has increased by 250 to 300% during the pandemic. This alarming fact is the starting point for Benjamin Von Wong’s monumental artwork “Turn Off The Plastic Tap”.
In the heart of the Canadian Cultural Center in Paris, this gigantic suspended tap spits out a stream of collected plastic waste.
#TurnOffThePlasticTap is in tune with its times: it has been thought to bring the message to life around the world and could be describred as “Open source” and “Instagrammable”.
Benjamin Von Wong invites artists from around the world to “remix” his work, and the public to seize the work and give it momentum on the networks with the hashtag #TurnOffThePlasticTap.
It’s up to you to spread the message away!
10 years ago, the engineer left his job in search of an activity that would allow him to travel and meet inspiring people. He turned to photography and made it his profession. Today, he works in the creation of spectacular works that aim to raise awareness and change the world. The theme of plastic, central to his installations, is presented as a mass that suffocates our planet, and against which we must fight.
“One is not born an activist. The problem is that many people see the world without really looking at it. But if you open your eyes, and dig for facts and solutions, that's how you can really understand a problem and fight to solve it.”
For Benjamin Von Wong, art bears the responsibility to rise above the rhetoric and show facts. Art is a way to open up debates and start discussions, whether with people who are already aware or not.
“Art is unique and non-prescriptive: it doesn’t dictate what you should do, but exposes facts to open up debate and appeal to your conscience. An artist can help people change their perspective, see the world differently and think about things differently, and I hope my work contributes to do that.”
When asked who his work is for, the Toronto artist doesn’t hesitate: it’s the new generation that needs to be inspired to create change.
They are the ones who will have to face the consequences of our current society, and to face them, inspiration and motivation are necessary.
To reach this new generation, Benjamin constructs his works to fit into our new modes of exchange, always with the idea that his work must be shocking enough to be shared, especially on social networks, inspiring and meaningful enough to be interesting and to convey the right messages.
And for that, three phases of creation are necessary :
- Design: Understanding your theme to make it come alive is a real challenge that requires a lot of preparation work that combines brainstorming, discussions and exchanges. When everything is in place and the ideas are clear, the second phase can begin.
- Prototyping: transforming an idea into an installation; what concessions or changes need to be made for the concept to become a reality, and for the puzzle to take shape?
- The execution: it is the construction of the work, from its installation to its promotion, so that the work has the desired impact on the world.
Thus, a single work may require several months of intense work.
“The goal is not just to create a piece of art. The goal is to create a piece that will share a reflection and that can really make a difference.”
This reflection takes place in France at the initiative of the Embassy of Canada in France. The Embassy has partnered with the artist to create #TurnOffThePlasticTap.
The spectacular work, like his previous projects, does not point to an object, but to the problem of plastic pollution as a whole.
“When I make an exhibition, I hope to tell a story that speaks to people and makes them act or rethink the consequences of their actions when they get home.”
Collaborating with institutions or brands in this way is a way for Benjamin to reach as many individuals as possible but also to solve the problem at the source. Working with large companies allows him to expose his point of view, to sensitize the main actors of plastic pollution, and to initiate a first step towards a beneficial ecological transition.
“We need to see more brands enter into an eco-friendly production approach, and more committed companies emerge, so that the problem is understood and solved from within. And I hope, by working with these actors, I can accelerate and be part of this transition”.
Because a transition is necessary. For the artist, putting restrictions in place is not enough, in an era where, despite a real citizen awareness of plastic pollution, the production of plastic has never been so great. In an era where comfort and consumption seem to be indestructible.
Benjamin Von Wong now hopes to create his own creative studio in order to produce more and focus on the solutions, rather than the problems.
“The world needs hope and I want my future work to highlight positive actions: showing incredible innovations or different approaches and horizons.”