FORUM+ | Journal for Research and Arts: New Article by Luuk Schröder

Staging e-waste: Media archaeology in an e-waste recycling centre

Luuk Schröder’s recent contribution to the international peer-reviewed journal for research and arts FORUM+ explores a performative of framing recycling work. Luuk Schröder is a PhD candidate affiliated with the University of Groningen and RMeS, focusing his research on re-sensing electronic waste through artistic practice. Below is an excerpt of the article. For the full article, please visit FORUM+. 

“As an artist it is not uncommon to find oneself in search of materials. Some time ago, I cast a series of old cathode ray tube televisions by applying concrete to their screens, like death masks. The cast surfaces were grey, textured, and concave instead of convex. I hoped to invite a different way of looking at these obsolete media objects, making them strange. However, releasing the concrete from the glass was a process of trial and error and I rapidly ended up needing more old televisions. My search brought me to an electronic recycling centre at the city limits of Amsterdam. Here I found a whole shipping container full of discarded televisions, but I also encountered people working in between heaps and stacks of discarded media equipment. They were busy sorting cables, disassembling computers, stacking containers, and prying batteries out of plastic casings. The visit gave me a first insight into the extent to which people are involved at the end of the production chain. I decided to investigate this further by working as a recycler myself and contacted the WEEE (Waste of Electrical and Electronic Equipment) recycling centre in Apeldoorn to ask if they had a place for me. Interestingly, there has been increased attention to documenting global circuits of production, for example the Allied Grounds project of the Berliner Gazette1 or the Restart Project2 that cover themes like environmental pollution and resource commodification, while the afterlife of products remains less documented. In the context of circular economy, a policy central to the Dutch recycling industry, defined by EUR-Lex as “a system where products are reused, repaired, remanufactured or recycled”,3 research conducted into the afterlife of electronic equipment is criticized for “lacking the social and human dimensions”.4 What can be gained from engaging with the perspective of people who work at the end-of-life cycle of media equipment?”

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