Bodies of Planned Obsolescence: Digital performance and the global politics of electronic waste
Principal Investigator: Dr. Daniël Ploeger
Co-Investigator: Dr. Janet Chan (Hong Kong University)
AHRC grant reference: AH/L01582X/1
Bodies of Planned Obsolescence is an art-science research project that engages with the global politics and ecologies of discarded electronics. Old computers and other electronic appliances from countries in the West, including the UK, are often exported to West-Africa and China. As part of the project, an international group of artists, cultural theorists and scientists have followed this global stream of waste to Nigeria, Hong Kong, and the UK. Central to the project is a performance-based approach to obsolete and discarded electronic devices to explore new perspectives on the materiality of digital technology.
In Nigeria, the research group spent a few days working at an e-waste dump site connected to the Alaba market in Lagos, an enormous market in the western outskirts of Lagos which includes one of the biggest used electronics trading sites in the country. Following Lagos, the group travelled to Hong Kong, where they participated in electronic waste recycling labour, dismantling computers and monitors in a recycling plant, but where they also explored electronics consumption and trade at used and new electronics markets. During the third part of the project, the research group spent a week working together in London and visiting e-waste recycling sites in South-East England.
In July 2015, the first phase of the project was concluded with an event as part of V&A Digital Futures and an exhibition at Watermans in London, where the participants showed their findings in the form of of texts, artefacts and performances.
Project participants Jelili Atiku and Dani Ploeger at an e-waste dump site in Lagos, Nigeria.
Photo: Peter Dammann / Agentur Focus