For many, the term “e-waste” always conjures up images of smashed-up electronic devices; dismantled computers and broken televisions, all waiting to be disassembled and recycled. Very rarely does the term bring to mind an image that I would want to hang on my living room wall. Until now. Susan Stockwell is a British artist who specializes in everything from small, elaborate studies to large-scale installations, sculpture, drawings and collage. But what really sets Stockwell apart from other artists isn’t the scale of her work, it’s the materials she uses to create it. Instead of oil paint or marble, Stockwell uses elements of discarded electronic devices to create her breathtaking installations. Stockwell’s exhibition, “Flood,” in York, was made entirely from 4 tons of recycled computer components that were transformed into a site-specific installation in St. Marys, a deconsecrated 13th-century church. The computers were dissected, their innards exposed, revealing the underbelly of the machines we take for granted, an autopsy of our consumer society. The materials were lent by Secure IT Recycling of Cheshire and were returned to be recycled following the exhibition. Stockwell’s art “is concerned with issues of ecology, geo-politics, mapping, trade and global commerce,” according to her website. “The materials used are the everyday, domestic and industrial disposable products that pervade our lives. These materials are manipulated and transformed into works of art that are extraordinary.” In addition to their beauty and uniqueness, Stockwell’s art stands as a silent but powerful reminder that we are a wasteful society. We toss aside still-operative devices in a constant quest to have the latest, smallest, fastest thing on the market. We rarely stop to think about what happens to these rare and toxic materials once we are done with them. Stockwell’s art forces us to acknowledge the afterlife of e-waste. It doesn’t go away just because we don’t see it anymore. The curator, Grace Chung, described the work’s gently revealing nature better than I ever could: “Accumulation, transformation, detritus, debris, everyday materials are all recurrent themes in Stockwell’s work,” she says. “Meticulously hand-crafted, the benign sublime beauty in the work belies the devastating effects of our culture and our role in shaping it. Look more closely, and one is confronted by a cultural urgency of global proportions. Political and cultural colonization, globalize waste and consumption are reconfigured by Stockwell’s work into a new festering ecosystem of meaning that slowly seeps like the rising ocean level.”
Susan Stockwell Creates a Recycled Masterpiece from E-Waste
The British artist’s large-scale installations are drawing raves for their stunning beauty and recycled elements.