Some folks at the ArcWorks Community Art Center in Peabody, who organized the RePurpose show I participated in, thought taking apart computers would be a good project for some of their clients. Sal and Jim from the Heritage Industries came down to the Asylum for a visit, and after I described the procedure to them in detail, they also agreed and even had some candidates in mind. It turned out the the Art Center is run by Heritage Industries, but their primary objective is providing training and work to developmentally challenged adults. They actually transport people to businesses who pay them to do appropriate tasks such as stuffing envelopes and doing yard work. When I explained that mine was not a money making enterprise, they thought I would have a good chance of having the project funded if I submitted a proposal. Here is what I wrote:
I am writing to request that ARC to fund an individual to come to the Artisan’s Asylum at 10 Tyler St Somerville, MA to disassemble old computers and other discarded electronics to be used as art materials. This is a fun task that requires focus, curiosity and problem solving. Specific parts are used for art making by myself and in workshops that I lead for people of all ages. I have hosted, Take Apart sessions which are very popular and enjoyed by young people, experienced engineers and computer scientists alike. It is very intriguing to discover the wide variety of shapes, colors & materials of the components.
Although there are safety issues in regard to e-waste, this helper, nor any of my students are exposed to any of these dangerous conditions.
I will train and supervise this helper to use a power drill and determine which bit head to use to remove many little screws that hold the equipment together. The first step of the process is to locate screws. Then it is zip, zip, zip and we collect all the little screws that fall out. Next, belts are pulled out of sockets, clips are opened, springs are unattached to remove the heat sink, gears, hard drive, fan etc. etc. At times wire cutters and chisels are used for leverage to remove the parts. We receive a wide variety of donated equipment, making each one a unique puzzle to be solved. Doing this we gain an understanding of how things are put together and we also gain an appreciation for the people so far away, working on the assembly line who put them together.
I collect the parts with bold designs and abstract contours to use in mosaics and sculpture. We make necklaces, refrigerator magnets and sculptures. Creative possibilities are limitless when re-purposing these amazing materials that would otherwise be thrown out and destroyed. What I am doing has nothing at all with making profit. It is about making
physical arrangements that explore 2 and 3 dimensional abstract qualities. My work draws attention to the proliferation of obsolete equipment and the need to regulate its disposal.
Children love my workshops, and are amazed when they see what is inside the “box”. Unwittingly they are also being introduced to the world of electronics and science.
As of this date, I have not received any response….
1. Toxic acid baths and open-air burning of mercury used to recover valuable materials,
expose people to high levels of contaminants. When dumped in landfills, electronic equipment
decomposes and toxic chemicals leach into the land be released into the atmosphere. Over
time this causes serious public health and environmental impact.*
2. There are Phillips screw heads as well as hex and torque.
3. Combining unusual shapes and materials of the recycled parts with graphic elements in an
underlying collage creates a conversation between color, shapes and patterns.
4. The rest is divided between 2 buckets one for metal which is then picked up to be recycled and the other is taken to Best Buy, where they recycle the rest. They have a great video about it.
5. $3.1 billion worth of the United States’ scrap materials was imported by China. 25,000 workers are employed at scrap yards in Delhi, India. 50-80% of waste collected FOR RECYCLING is illegally shipped to the Far East, India, Africa and China.
6. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that ~3/4 of the computers sold in the US end up in landfills, incinerators or exported to developing countries in Africa, India and Asia.*
7. Use computer parts as art materials in this fun multimedia project. In Hacker Junk Mosaics,kids make design choices, experiment with shapes, colors and patterns and explore the interaction of 3D and 2D materials while making an abstract work of art to hang on the wall.