When the San Jose Museum of Art approached Los Angeles-based artist Anna Sew Hoy about participating in the museum’s new experimental exhibition gallery, “Beta Space,” that features contemporary work by younger artists, curators asked Sew Hoy to consider San Jose and Silicon Valley as a place and then create new work based on her ideas.
“Most people would think about high-speed Internet or new inventions [when they think of Silicon Valley],” Sew Hoy said.
But the New Zealand-born artist, who frequently works with secondhand materials because she likes their history of use, immediately thought of electronic waste.
Sew Hoy secured local Silicon Valley e-waste from San Jose-based, woman-owned GreenMouse Recycling for the exhibit that runs through Feb. 26.
In “6 Brands 6 Species,” Sew Hoy created a study of keyboard design by different PC manufacturers.
“We usually don’t think about how PCs are designed; it’s usually all about how Macs are designed,” she said.
Sew Hoy said incorporating e-waste into artwork forces people to confront the items we use every day and then dispose of.
“I want people to see how obsolescence is built into the electronics, so they’re made to be used up in a few years,” she said. “When people see the keyboards in the piece, they say, ‘That’s so 2002. That’s so ancient and useless,’ when 2002 is not that long ago.”
When constructing “Nothing All Day,” Sew Hoy was inspired by a DIY sculpture she saw in the office of Evelyn O’Donnell, president of GreenMouse Recycling: a clear umbrella stand stuffed with colorful e-waste.
“I thought the idea of a terrarium of e-waste was interesting,” Sew Hoy said.
Sew Hoy worked with artists at the Bay Area Glass Institute who blew the giant glass bowls to hold the cords, mice, circuit boards and other electronics.
Sew Hoy used old jeans from friends and family and phone and DSL cords from GreenMouse to create this version of the globe.
“Although jeans still represent America, denim is now an universal clothing that nearly everyone in the world has,” she said.