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Over the course of 22 months, Ben Kurstin collected 8816 drug bags in Humboldt Park in Chicago (32 Pics)

Over the course of 22 months Ben Kurstin collected 8,816 drug bags in Humboldt Park in Chicago. This is a small sampling of the work  put together during that time. The largest piece is a mosaic of Richard Nixon's face that's 8 feet tall and 6 feet wide. (He started the "War on Drugs")


This is particle board that Ben Kurstin stapled clear drug bags to, it's 4 foot wide by two feet tall. It was then spray painted with the flag (Obviously) The drug problem is not just an American problem, but it is most certainly one of our biggest looming threats. Almost half of the prisoners in both Federal and State Prisons are in for drug offenses.


This as well is on a 2 foot by 4 foot wooden board. The upside down flag is a sign of distress to our allies. I also used some false colors (not entirely) to take an iconic, well known symbol and flip it.  I spoke with drug users in the park, and citizens of the city as I picked up the bags. The users were very comfortable in saying they knew what would happen to their bodies if they continued, but they couldn't stop. That scared me.

The black of this flag is both a reference to heroin (the widely used drug in the area)
"4 Suits". My best day I collected 162 bags. I walked a half mile from where I lived to the bus to go to work, and would walk along the park. Both there and back I would pick up the bags. They were like leaves on the ground. I first only wanted to see how many designs I could find, but it quickly got much bigger than that.
The decay of the bags was obvious, the longer they stayed out the sadder they'd become. Drug use leaves no one untouched, in terms of cocaine and heroin, this is a destructive force.
"All My Dreams Melt Away" The biggest piece I'm working on, the 8 foot tall Nixon mosaic is nearly done. It's been by far the hardest piece to get right, but at this point I'm proud of it.

"Winter" "Spring" "Summer" "Fall" Each one of these is particle board, 2 feet by 2 feet. They are put together here to illustrate the time it took to collect these bags. The average was 17.1 a day. I collected bags for around 490 days over two years. My guess is in that time I spent 360-740 hours picking up and cleaning the bags.

I made a series of each color separated off on their own, and then one off them all together. I scanned them big enough that each print could be several feet high and wide. There are also ones like the one below "Call of the Wild" that are put together by theme.
Another in the series of deteriorating bags. I felt that the hearts were fitting for this.
"Call of the Wild" I found around 140-160 different varieties of bags. Some were colored, some had designs, they all were so interesting to me. Each one seemed like they were branded. I began to pick out what drugs came in what bags, there was often left over particles in them. A few times I found them still filled with their product. There were pills, weed, cocaine, heroin, meth, crack. I found used needles, and spoons with burn marks on them.
"Heavy D and the Bunny"
I have nothing personally against the D.A.R.E. program, but they knew it didn't work before they made it national. They had studies that showed it didn't work, but there was money to be made at the top, and other people working on it had their heart in the right place, but it was a failure. People who went through the program in the nineties are more likely to use drugs than those who didn't.
All the designs of the black bags in one image.

Almost all of the different designs together 
Above you can see that this one still had cocaine in it. It was wet, and I kept it sealed.
I tried to put bags together that fit. Batman vs. Superman was easy enough.
Spiderman, X-Men, Black Panther and Spiderman again.

Green was a very common color, and it was obvious that there was weed in many of them, green for some green, made sense. In this one you can see someone made a straw out of a little piece of paper, so I think it's safe to say that one held coke.
Red was pretty easy to pick out amongst the green grass and dirt of the park.


I have scans of each bag design separated like this one, seeing them up close I think is fascinating.

Honest Advertisement. Sometimes it was clear based on the design what was in them. It took me too long to figure out "8 Ball" for cocaine.





Who would have thought that there were 2 different panda designs to choose from.




Teddy Bear Devolution.
A skull made out of skulls.

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