Benjamin Von Wong is a viral creative, pairing his engineering and artistic backgrounds to create epic imagery that rallies people around environmental and social causes. Von Wong’s work makes these topics digestible and accessible. He communicates global issues through dramatic, fantastic scenes, pulling on the emotions of his audience. His passion for the mission to spread awareness and inspire action speaks through his work, embodying what it means to engage in activism through art. Some of his previous projects have focused on plastic microfibers released in washing machines, electronic waste, and marine plastic pollution. His most recent project, in collaboration with Greenpeace and aerial performance artist, Katerina Soldatou, highlights the fact that a truckload of plastic enters the ocean every minute.
What about the ocean speaks to you as an artist? How did you find yourself first focusing your energy and intention on marine conservation?
There’s something absolutely tragic when you find yourself in the middle of what sees and feels like a vast pristine ocean only to see bits of plastic floating by more regularly than fish.I don’t think there was a particular catalyst to fighting for the ocean – but rather a progressive involvement as I looked towards the different issues plaguing the world.
Can you say a few words about your recent “Every 60 Seconds, a Truckload of Plastic Enters the Ocean” collaboration with Greenpeace and aerial artist Katerina Soldatou?
Katerina and I wanted to support an organization like Greenpeace that had the power to leverage awareness as a weapon to prompt corporate change. With most of the content out there being literal documentation of trash, we wanted to take a more conceptual approach that was simultaneously beautiful yet tragic.
What challenges did you have to overcome to orchestrate the aerial photography with floating plastic in a natural setting? Who did you have to collaborate with to overcome these?
The entire project was a challenge!!First, we had to collect the plastics, then think about how we were going to string them together so that they could be packed/transported/unpacked in multiple locations. Once we figured that out, we had to actually find the manpower to help us string all these pieces together… Of course, transportation was an issue too, requiring boats and trucks to get to the right locations. In parallel to all of this, we had to find and prepare the different locations to make sure they were not only safe but photogenic.Last but not least, we had to plan the “disposal” plan, finding an independent recycler that could take care of all our plastics since the island didn’t have any recycling locally.
What is your view on the role of art in activism? How do you think art acts as a universal language, catalyzing the distribution of a message?
I believe that art has the power to open up conversation pathways to people who might not be otherwise interested. It creates an opportunity for dialogue and emotional connectivity across cultures and politics.
You combine sculpture, fashion, extreme acrobatics, and photography to convey your message. How do you think this mixed-media helps create dramatic scenes that engage a broader audience in the environmental movement?
The internet is a busy place, and I think that the only way to stand out is to do things that haven’t been done before – or done in a way that hasn’t been experienced. I don’t believe there is one right way to do something, but if it is outrageous enough – it stands a chance at occupying a piece of someone’s heart.
Project Page: www.truckloadofplastic.com
Benjamin Von Wong
Author: Cassia Patel