Enter the Strawpocalypse: Artist Fights Plastic Waste in Vietnam

By: Brennan Lagman

For the next two months, you can head over to Estella Place and meander through a tidal wave of straws which started as trash picked off the streets and have been transformed into the cerulean brush strokes of a stunning visual masterpiece. This powerful public art installation entitled The Parting of the Plastic Sea (#Strawpocalypse for short) is the latest installment of esteemed visual artist Von Wong.

Von Wong, Zero Waste Saigon, Starbucks Vietnam, and property developer Keppel Land joined forces to bring the installation to Ho Chi Minh City. The debut is the latest in a recent string of waste awareness events in Ho Chi Minh City dedicated to addressing the problem of single-use plastic waste.

Plastic Waste in VietnamImage source: Anna Tenne

Plastic Waste as a Mosaic For Change in Vietnam and Beyond

A Canadian international with a global influence, Von Wong is a contemporary visual artist, photographer, and environmentalist known for transforming waste into dramatic imagery that challenges viewers to feel, think and act. He chose Saigon as the home for his latest masterpiece: a trash tsunami of epic proportions.

The sculpture is a life-size mosaic of carefully placed plastic straws comprising two 4-metre-high furling waves of blue and green capped with a white plastic seafoam. A trail of orange and yellow beckons onlookers to journey amidst the parting waves and creates an illusion of being swallowed whole by a sea of plastic. Von Wong encourages people to go and experience the art in person and share it with as many people as possible.

Video source: VonWong

Here’s How Von Wong Created this #Strawpocalypse in Saigon

Collaboration is key to all of Von Wong’s epic work. He worked closely with Michael and Julia Burdge, founders of Zero Waste Saigon (ZWS), and a power couple in Ho Chi Minh City’s grassroots fight against plastic waste in Vietnam. Julia has been a long time fan of Von Wong’s work and reached out for a possible collaboration in April of last year. As two fiery individuals with a passion for change, they immediately connected. ZWS got to work organizing clean-ups around Vietnam and getting local businesses and organisations on board, while Von Wong went into the lab to cook up this epic piece.

Fast forward nine months and Von Wong touched down to hundreds of volunteers who helped donate, collect and hand-wash thousands of straws and heaps of plastic packaging. He worked with local builders and electricians to construct and hardwire a LED infrastructure and turn the amassed refuse into vibrant waves. Hosted by Keppel Land’s Estella Place Mall and funded by Starbucks, volunteers came from the community and local schools such as the British International School, American International School and German International School.

Video source: VonWong

The Impact of This Powerful Art Installation

Plastic waste is an issue of global concern. As Vietnam is in the top 4 polluters of ocean plastic in the world what is done or not has far-reaching implications. Therefore, it’s everyone’s responsibility to engage with this issue.

Creative visionaries like Von Wong tap into their imagination to educate people in visceral and captivating ways that statistics and numbers alone cannot. The Parting of the Plastic Sea without a doubt accomplishes that.

For the evolving environmental movement in Ho Chi Minh City, to have the endorsement and contributions of such a renowned artist and be given a platform to collaborate, share, feel and engage with a spirit of creativity is a vital aspect in getting people to care and fight to find solutions.

Plastic Waste in VietnamImage source: VonWong

Banner Image source: vonwong.com

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