Did you know that 800 laptops worth of Electronic Waste are thrown away every second?
The #1 reason: Exorbitant repair costs that keep people buying new.
For decades, big tech companies have been fighting to restrict access to affordable repairs – shutting down small independent repair shops and keeping us addicted to buying new.
So when I was offered the chance to transform a space in Arcadia Earth‘s Toronto Exhibit – I decided to create an installation that would make the boring topic of “Right To Repair” a little more unforgettable.
The Right to Repair movement is fighting to break the corporate monopoly on the repair market.
It demands that companies provide affordable parts, tools, and documentation to independent shops and product owners – allowing us to hold on to our precious products longer.
70% of the world’s toxic waste in landfills comes from our electronics, and although some of that could be resolved by better recycling, we also need more sustainable and repairable products so that the next generation doesn’t end up being enslaved to a giant E-Waste Generator.
Here’s how we did it:
Over 5,000 lbs of circuit boards, cables, and computers had to be sorted, dismantled, and recombined.
We received 1,500 lbs of cables, 800 lbs of motherboards, 800 lbs of. keyboards, 1500 lbs of computers, and 800 lbs of household appliances from Uni-Recycle – a local e-waste recycling facility that collects electronic waste for free. In most major cities around the world, free e-waste collection services are available to keep them out of landfill!
Like a puzzle, every piece had to be installed in sequence.
The bulk of the grunt work was done with the help of my parents and dozens of volunteers.
We painstakingly organized, sorted, and attached thousands of keyboards, circuit boards, mice, and cables to the installation, one tiny piece at a time.
While over 50m of LED lights were hidden all around the installation.
Tyler from Eclectic Lighting Design helped us plan, design, order, and ship thousands of dollars worth of COB LED lights to Toronto while Troy Strum helped us solder, install, and program them. My favorite part? Learning how to solder the lights myself, and collaborating with my dad to hand build our own custom side lights out of upcycled acrylic!
Our concept had very humble beginnings.
Everything began with a SketchUp model created with the help of my girlfriend Dana Waldman. We initially envisioned people, sitting on a giant throne, ruling over an empire of Electronic Waste. We then enlisted the help of concept engineer Jeremy Lizandier, who helped me evolve the installation into something both doable and epic – before toning things down a little because of costs, regulations, and safety.
And not everything worked the way we wanted it to.
Stephie, a volunteer, spent hours stenciling out a giant “Right To Repair” that we painted onto the stairs. Unfortunately, we found that it distracted too much from the final installation and went for a more subtle call to action instead.
But we eventually figured out how to create a piece anyone could photograph – regardless of how cheap of a camera they owned.
One of these was shot on a phone. Can you tell which?
Left: shot on iPhone, and Right: Shot on a Sony A7r-IV
This piece is more than a photo-op. It’s an entire experience that will be up for an entire year! (Tickets here)
Many easter eggs are hidden within the piece; the soft voice and words of Amber Herzog which can only be heard when seated on the installation- inviting people to buy more and upgrade quicker, reminiscent of the toxic advertising industry we face every day. A sound-activated broken mirror greets you as you survey the empire of electronic waste you rule over, inviting you to reconsider your role and reliance on technology. Augmented reality QR codes hide within the room so that you can scan and familiarize yourself with how you too can get involved in the Right to Repair movement. To top it all off, two immersive and ethereal soundtracks designed by Dave Hodge help set the mood and tone.
Even if you can’t visit the piece, I hope you get involved!
If you’re in Canada:
- Read more about Equiterre’s fantastic Right to Repair report
- Sign the petition calling for Right to Repair at the Federal level!
If you’re in the US:
- Find your state on Repair.org
And of course… if you ever pass through Toronto, make sure to visit our art installation.
- High-Rez press images, BTS, and more can be found in this dropbox link.
- Commercial requests and rights: firstname.lastname@example.org
Special thanks to:
- Uni-recycle for sponsoring almost 3000 lbs of electronic waste for the installation
- Jerem Lizandier – for 3D modeling and design
- David Lister from CNC cutting for the laser-cut, engineering, and fabrication
- Dian Carlo from @IheartMachinist for build and fabrication
- Tyler Rothermel from Eclectic Light Design for preparing and shipping all of our LED light strips
- Troy Strum for all the lighting design.
- Amber Herzog for her voice and words hidden behind the throne, sound engineered by Eric Sherbon at Maximus Media
- Dave Hodge for the soundtrack of the entire room
- My parents – for all the meal prepping, snacks, tools, and fabrication support.
- The team at Arcadia Earth for helping us with all the site logistics.
- 5DayDeal for sponsoring our BTS content.
- My agent Suzy Johnston + Associates for producing the entire installation.
Volunteers: Phil Cha, Samantha Wu, Helen Leung-Regalado, Brian de Rivera Simon, Amanda Michele, Darshel Diaz, Susanne Larner, Krista Dalby, Youssef Wahby, Stephie Reimer, Lauren Silvera, Meghan & Marlea Hurst, Jeanette Kho, Sing Wong, Suzy Johnston, Tristan Lim, Natasha Sakoor, Tyler Hitchcock, Newton Yee, Dayeon Kim, Ahmed Wahby, Hayoung Lee, Dana Waldman, Alexander Gierholz