Indian e-waste's insidious industry enthrals artist from Switzerland

Indian e-waste's insidious industry enthrals artist from Switzerland

A Zurich-based artist Raphael Perret, fascinated by people behind Indian e-waste recycle industry, and innate consumerism of the diaspora, has mounted a Recycling Yantra, a video and art exhibition, at Swissnex, 26 Rest House Crescent Road, Shanthala Nagar, in City. 

The exhibition, which will be on till September 7, showcases his art work Smarahara Yantra, meaning removal of desire. 

The event also saw a panel discussion on e-waste — E-waste Recycling: The Informal Sector as Pathway to the Future? wherein experts on e-waste debated on the subject. Perret spent two-and-half months in New Delhi in picking hundreds of collectibles such as discarded mobile phones, computers and keyboards, to create his installation.

The artist, who has, over a decade, specialised in electronic arts, scrounged for gadgets at the local kabadiwalas (recyclers), the country’s informal sector, where people discarded the old wares for a price, rather than go through the formal channel. 

In the course of his search for his exhibition subject, Perret also interviewed scores of e-waste workers, some of whom, deal with dangerous chemicals to strip electronic parts for valuable metals like gold, copper, palladium and silver. On his surreal experience, and the trigger behind his exhibit’s ideation, he said, we live behind a veil. 

“The products appear in stores but we do not know what is really going on. My intention was to poke holes into this veil. I wanted to look at the dark side of the chip. Where do these things come from, where do they go,” he quipped in an informal tete-a-tete with Deccan Herald, post the inaugural. 

What astounded Perret most was how efficient and organised the informal network function both in Delhi and Bangalore, wherein every little piece of e-waste was recycled to retrieve what was valuable from it. 

In this regard, he recollected how he met up with a man who once had been a farmer, but found that he could rake in much more moolah stripping copper from circuit boards.
 Terming that it was all about economy and those in the trade had no other choice, Perret asserted that manufacturers and the informal sector both needed to take on the responsibility in ensuring safe working conditions for those engaged in the trade for their livelihood. 

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