wastes - outcomes

Bodies of Planned Obsolescence

Watermans Arts Centre, London, 4-25 July 2015

An exhibition of project outcomes: photo, video, and sound documentation; collaboratively produced texts, artefacts, and performances

Throughout the year, participants exchanged reflections and ideas in response to their participation in e-waste recycling work in Lagos and Hong Kong. On 29 and 30 June 2015, they developed a collaborative exhibition, based on a set of shared interests that emerged from the workshops:

-Social bodies and global networks

-Cyborgs and garbage

-Tools as traces of materials and bodies

-Electronics and the performance of cleanliness

-Perceptible dust vs. invisible circuits and toxins.

The works below that are not attributed to a single person are outcomes of the collaborative work during the workshop:

E-waste Disassembly Tools and Sounds

Hammer from Alaba market e-waste dump in Lagos. Pneumatic screwdriver from Vannex International Ltd. recycling factory in Hong Kong. Soundscape recordings from the Lagos and Hong Kong recycling sites.

tools as traces of encounters between bodies and the debris of techno consumer culture; tools and their connection to local practices, specific social and geographic locations

Packs of Lives

Butchered body/machine parts have been packaged for sale, sealed and marked with ‘use by’ dates, ready for export. Destination unknown.

Jelili Atiku - Capacitance Does Not Consume Power (2015; performance documentation)

E-waste scavengers in Lagos use a shaker tool made of an old screwdriver and spindle platters from DVD players to attract people's attention.


The fan of a motherboard switches on and off intermittently. It blows household dust, removed from the inside of a computer carcass, into the air. The continual movement of dust is contained in the piece. However, the ceaseless creation and motion of unconfined dust accompanies all stages of the e-waste journey.

Dust has pervaded this project, in many and unexpected ways. We have been covered in dust, breathed dust, and been infected by dust. Dust has been a surprising and provocative companion.

Our first encounter with ‘fresh’ e-waste, at the V&A, was disappointing due to the absence of dust covering the freshly disposed carcasses. Also a surprise was the amount of dust we found inside the discarded computers we dismantled in Hong Kong. These machines suck in dust in startling quantities. The dust, both present and absent, in these two cases was very much the familiar dust of everyday domestic life; the stuff we find clinging to our furniture and filling our vacuum cleaners. It is the organic dust of human skin debris, pet hairs and dust mites; a fertile, rich medium.

The other types of dust we have encountered have been much more dangerous. This has reminded us that dust is not a stuff but a category. What comprises specific dusts varies with the activities and locations where we find e-waste processing. Inorganic dusts comprising heavy metals, and other toxic and indigestible fragments, poison and infect people, animals, and the land itself. Most startling was the dense layer, thick as fur, of metal and plastic dust that coats the machinery at high-tech recycling factories.

These different varieties of dust extract various kinds of revenge; familiar, organic dust clogs the machine, accelerating its journey to obsolescence, while the dangerous dust of e-waste processing retaliates against both individual bodies and the social body whose hubris set the whole process in motion. A measure of dust for a measure of dust. - Neil Maycroft

ELECTRONIC 506 (garbage cyborg)

'A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism' (Haraway, A Cyborg Manifesto, 1985)

Household dust is composed of 70%-90% human skin flakes (Clark and Cox, 'The Generation of Aerosols from the Human Body', 1973)

Shu Lea Cheang – Spoken (2015)

Piles of old speakers with old screws attached. The magnetic fatal attraction of by-gone technology. Some speakers stripped naked still sound deep, droning and drowning. Metals composted give way to the worm colony. Sprouts awakened. Technologies don’t die easy, strive for after life beyond expiration day, claim its own salvation as ever stretching cellular organism. 

Dani Ploeger – E-waste Wound (2015)

The morning after I participated in e-waste recycling labour on the dump site in Lagos, Nigeria, a sore patch appeared on my left arm. It got infected. E-waste performed on my body.

Unrealized Heavy Metal Analysis

Three laboratory containers with e-waste samples from Lagos, Hong Kong and Sittingbourne. Poster of previous toxicological analysis by Kehinde Olubanjo.

Jelili Atiku - Capacitance does not Consume Power (2015)

E-waste scavengers in Lagos use a shaker tool made of an old screwdriver and spindle platters from DVD players to attract people's attention.

Performance at University of Lagos, February 2015

Dani Ploeger - Recycled Coil (2014)

Parts of a deflection coil from a discarded CRT television are installed on my abdomen. A body piercer sewed magnetic wire from the coil through my skin and attached the coil’s connector above my belly button. For the duration of the exhibition at transmediale festival 2014, an electric current was run through the coil on my abdomen for one second every three-second interval. Thus, an electromagnetic pulse signal was generated.
For several hours a day, I presented myself in the exhibition space, accompanied by a magnetometer detecting my magnetic field.

Thanks to Dirk Hückler, Naked Steel Piercing and Body Modification, Berlin. Video material: courtesy of Arte Creative (Martin Dunkelmann, Stephan Walsch, Steffen Hammerich, Julia Freyhoff). Produced in collaboration with transmediale festival Berlin.