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BRISTOL, England — Elias Sime’s large, multipaneled works gleam like aerial views of cities caught in the evening sun or undulate like topographical diagrams of mountains and rivers. These scenes are actually mazes of circuit boards, bulbs, keys, and batteries. Currently, the exhibition is on view at Eregata እርጋታ at Arnolfini, they are crafted from discarded electronics, many of which find their way to the artist’s home city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, after being disposed of around the world. Sime wants to highlight the enormous amount of waste created by digital technology, which is becoming obsolete faster as communications speed up.
Sime’s process, by contrast, is determinedly slow; a single work may take many years to complete. The artist carefully separates and sorts the different elements from piles of eWaste before collaging them on wooden panels with glue or nail. This is not a simple exhortation to recycle and use less. Instead, the works interrogate global technological culture, weaving complex networks of actors, ideas, and materials.
Sime is intrigued by how these components bear imprints from many human hands, and are the result of different forms of labor. From the physical production of a motherboard to its digital exchanges, to its stripping for recycling or landfill.
The majority of the works in Eregata እርጋታcome from the artist’s Tightrope series (2009–ongoing), crafted from braided wires. Sime views braiding as an analogy for bringing disparate elements together, and for the intimate interweaving of humans with technology and the natural environment. Braiding is an Ethiopian traditional craft technique, and a human ability used worldwide. As such, it provides a literal and metaphorical connection between the local scale and universal scale of his work.
Elias Sime: Eregata እርጋታ Continues at Arnolfini (16 Narrow Quay, Bristol (England), through February 18, The exhibition was curated Gemma Brace. She is the Head of Exhibitions for Arnolfini.