Exploring Antique Technologies
by Kary Pardy
As we look at the future of collecting and puzzle over what will be popular years from now, perhaps the best place to start is to examine how the world may change and our changing attitudes towards stuff in general.
We live in a disposable society and as antique-lovers know, the lasting, and by definition, reused nature of antiques make them relatively “green” choices for consumers. Collectors of the old and even tossed aside literally turn trash into treasure. As the world continues to fill up with newly produced garbage and we become more environmentally conscious, I believe that the hot items of the future will be those that reuse and recycle, particularly as related to technology.
Statista reported recently that nearly fifty million tons of electronics and appliance refuse is predicted to enter landfills around the world in 2018. Known as “e-waste,” this category of our discarded computers, cell phones, etc. is the fastest growing trash stream according to a New York Times report in July, 2018.
In response to this startling trend, several artists are finding beauty and meaning in our outdated technology and are using this rapidly increasing medium to their advantage, and ours as well.
Did you know that Dell has the world’s largest growing recycling program and that they offer free recycling of e-waste? We didn’t either, and innovative photographer Benjamin “Von” Wong teamed up with the computer giant to get people talking about the growing problem of e-waste. He designed, staged, and photographed intricate images with a donated 4,100 pounds of tech waste (the estimated amount an American might produce in their lifetime). Wong recruited a team of volunteers and other artists to bring the parts back to life as memorable works of art that showcase the staggering volume of trash that is associated with our technology consumption.
His photographs of this and other responsibly-minded works in this series are creatively and romantically staged with a style that brings beauty to difficult problems and makes us look at issues that we might otherwise turn away from. Von Wong’s pieces are relevant, motivational, and collectible.
Gabriel Dishaw introduces himself on his website as an upcycler and a sculptor. A relatively new term, the word “upcycling” was born in the past twenty years and references reusing something discarded to make a better end product. The trend, which has been brewing in the art world throughout the 20th century, speaks to our growing desire to breathe life back into old things, something antique collectors in particular can relate to.
Dishaw’s pieces are heavily mechanical and metal in composition; some of his favorite items to work with are typewriters and adding machines for their symmetry of form. Though a message of reuse runs through all of Dishaw’s creations, his individual sculptures are inspired by the form and movement of their components and his series work draws heavily from personal interests. Expect to see increasingly realistic shoe sculptures made from technological components and additions to his Star Wars work in the future.
McFarlane’s work includes intricate circuit board sculptures, panel reliefs, and “Scrapscapes,” a combination of circuit board art and sculpture that results in beautiful landscapes made from recycled industrial waste, but his start was in circuit board painting. As a computer sales consultant in the 90’s, he saw the speed at which we went through technology and the discarded boards became his canvases. What better platform to paint on in this day and age? Peter’s art is timely and touches on growing trends that will make for relevant collectibles in the future.
As the world changes, so too will our collections, particularly if you are a fan of antique technology. Embracing recycling is one way to help with the ever-growing output of technological material, and programs like Dell’s Closed Loop Recycling Process offer consumers options for their old tech when they need to upgrade.
Keep an eye out for creative reuse, within art galleries, at flea markets, or in the community around you. Such inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes. Somerville, MA artist Melissa Glick took her love of tossed-aside computer parts and created jewelry and other sculptures. She hopes to raise awareness of the ever-increasing e-waste problem by transforming junk into jewels. Is technology upcycling for you? Please let us know if you have any questions about these artists or the programs mentioned. We would be happy to help you get creative too!