If you've ever traveled to a country where you've been advised to avoid the water, you know that sometimes it's easier to get a can of Coca-Cola than a glass of clean drinking water. That's part of what inspired Netherlands-based multidisciplinary artist Helmut Smits to create a contraption called "The Real Thing," which turns Coca-Cola into pure water.
"The Real Thing" is basically a still that boils off water from a Coke in the form of vapor, then condenses it back down, adds some minerals and produces clean drinking water. Smits has no intention to manufacture the device. It was simply part of the "Sense Nonsense" exhibition unveiled at Dutch Design Week, which just wrapped up in Holland at the end of last month, and was meant to point out the absurdity that Coke can be easier to get than clean water in some parts of the world.
"A machine that filters Coca-Cola into pure drinking water suddenly makes a lot of sense in a world in which drinking water can be harder to come by than the multinational soft drink," exhibit co-curator Thomas Widdershoven told online design magazine Dezeen.
Smits originally had the idea for his Coke converter in 2006 but it took an invitation to exhibit at "Sense Nonesense" (which will be running at the
Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven till November 9) and collaboration with masters student Martien Würdemann of the Synthetic Organic Chemistry Group at the University of Amsterdam to make the idea a reality.
"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," Smits told 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." Smits also said that he found it "absurd" when his research revealed that one liter of Coke (about a quart) can take nine liters of clean water (about 2.5 gallons) to produce.
As for his future as a Coke converter Smits told Dezeen: "I'm not planning on turning all the Coke in the world back into water, it's more to let people think about how we humans create the world around us and ask questions. I just want people to laugh and then hopefully think about the sh*t that they consume."