In July 2018, students, faculty, and staff joined Prof. Roopali Phadke and her reserach assistants Betsy Schein ('19) and Ari Jahiel ('19) to learn about urban mining and electronic waste by taking apart old phones in a Fairphone workshop. Prior to disassembling the cell phones, the group of about 20 listened to Betsy and Ari speak on mining, recycling, rare earth elements, as well as the resources and practices required to make and take apart electronics. Though the little screws and clasps on the phones were finicky, the group was very successful at dismantling the phones, learning about electronic waste and phone components along the way. Following the workshop, all phone parts were taken to Tech Dump, a certified electronics recycler in Saint Paul.
In July 2018, Professor Roopali Phadke shared her interests in geology, art, and climate policy with students participating in ArtStart's summer program "Between Art and Sky".
There is a burgeoning genre of eco-art known as “electronic waste art”. This includes Projects like Chris Jordan’s "Intolerable Beauty" (mosaic installations using old cell phones) or Toby Smith's "Rare Earthenware" (vases made from toxic sludge) are finding their way into museum exhibits around the world. More recently, the group ReFunct Media created an installation on e-waste, planned obsolescence and sustainable design strategies. Edward Burtynsky’s “Urban Mines” photographs may be the most haunting example.
Despite the potency of such projects, they have limited ability to directly influence scholarship or policy. Our project hopes to paint new cartographies of extraction that amplify the voices of those who live on mining lands. Our public arts collaborations aim to build reciprocity among scholars, artists, scientists and subjects, in ways that reach beyond binary politics toward representing the complex connections between consumption and resource extraction.
Featured below are a collection of images taken at a gallery night, hosted at the Water Bar & Public Studio in Minneapolis, based on our 2016 research.
We were screen-printing with soils from the Iron Range and exhibiting photography.