Basel 2018 – Formafantasma’s Ore Streams design exhibition explores the massive global issue of electronic waste (a.k.a. e-waste) recycling with an imaginary office furniture collection made from materials and parts from unwanted laptops, phones and other technological devices.
Some of the pieces were presented at the design gallery Giustini Stagetti duringDesign Miami / Basel 2018. The Ore Streams series debuted in an exhibition during the NGV Triennial of Art and Design and was commissioned to Formafantasma by the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in Melbourne.
A GLOBAL ISSUE – “The earth’s surface has been mined for millennia in search of resources such as metals and minerals to fulfil our production demands”. Explain Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin of Formafantasma. “The greed for metals has grown to such an extent that by 2080, the biggest metal reserves will not be underground but above the surface as ingots building materials, appliances, furniture and electronic products.”
Indeed, electronics are the fastest growing waste stream due to the use of precious metals such as gold and silver in the production of chip boards. Today, around 70% of used devices is often shipped illegally to developing countries where they are disassembled in poor working conditions and, with no better means, toxic components of electronics are disposed of inappropriately. This proves harmful to both the environment and workers.
Formafantasma interviewed professionals, brands and international institutions abd created a provocative and imaginary office furniture collection which acts as a trojan horse. The series uses form and colour to initiate a deeper exploration of the ‘above ground mining’ as well as the complex role design plays in transforming natural resources into desirable products.
THE IMAGINARY FURNITURE COLLECTION – At first glance the objects appear austere, gold-clad and slickly coated. Yet, within moments familiar elements begin to emerge. An aerating grid from a microwave under the surface of the table and two piles of mobile phone castings under that. The body of the microwave is integrated on a shelf hanging from one of the cubicles, while a computer keyboard has been inserted into its side.
A standing cabinet pairs transparent glass with six empty computer towers used as drawers. Gold scavenged from electronic waste recurs as a finish throughout the series: most visibly, as cladding on the inside of a leather trash bin, as one thin section of the CNC-milled aluminium chair and in two iPhones and a keyboard placed in the table and cubicle, respectively.
THE VIDEO INSTALLATIONS – The Ore Streams features also an eighteen-channel video installation that aims to unpack the problematics of e-waste and offer global strategies that can be applied in order to design products for more efficient recycling.
Developed as research material, a series documentaries were made that feature interviews conducted by Formafantasma with practitioners of the recycling sector including European e-waste recyclers, academic researchers, electronics producers, NGOs working in developing countries and Interpol, the The International Criminal Police Organization which is responsible for environmental crimes and developing guidelines for government lawmakers.
The video installation also includes four videos where a selection of electronic products are carefully disassembled and recomposed. This acts as a taxonomy, highlighting the material and design complexity of the products.
All photos: courtesy of Formafantasma.