‘The Real Thing’ brings attention to a global situation in which H20 can be harder to come by than the soft drink

When Helmut Smits learned that Coca-Cola was more accessible than drinking water in certain impoverished communities, he was puzzled. In response, the Netherlands-based interdisciplinary artist created “The Real Thing,” an art installation that filters Coca-Cola back into clean water to make a statement about priorities as a consumerist culture.

Smits brainstormed his filtration idea after reflecting on the Coca-Cola/water access imbalance from the perspective of a child. “I try to look at the world and the things around us as a child or as an alien, like I see things for the first time,” he tells Dezeen, “When I looked at Coca-Cola that way, I saw dirty brown water, so it was logical to filter it back into clean drinking water, just as we do with all our waste water.”

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