Giorgia Burzio

Rocks in Vogue
On material flows within electronic devices

Master of Fine Arts | Individual Study Plan in Design

short film 

Landscapes have been exploited and polluted by humans in order to obtain metals. We treat resources as commodities: extracted, used inside our devices and appliances, then discarded as useless matter. What would change if we would perceive materials as vibrant? Can we develop a more caring and attentive relationship with materials, energy and devices?

Rocks in Vogue is an exploration of the material flows within the production and disposal of electronic devices. Very often the connection between consumers and the source is invisible and well-masked behind the slick surfaces of our laptops and smartphones. The work highlights how alienated we are from the geological physicality of the surrounding digital technology. No “green energy” could exist without the extraction of iron, rare earths, cobalt, lithium, and more.
Through the disassembling of old broken devices, the metals found inside represent stories of labor, time and resistance. This reverse process, from the end-product to the raw sources, opens up the possibility of alternative forms of mining and a renewed attitude towards materiality, seen as agency with its own force. 

copper, iron and aluminum are recovered from two broken MacBook Pro. melting and casting 

The force and agency of the materials are expressed through low-power ceramic batteries. The elementary reaction moving from copper (positive) to iron (negative) represents a narrative of low power, material exhaustion and care. The human labor is brought to the surface by the crafted vessels, that are amorphous and communicate what is hidden within hyper-fragmented labor and mass-production.

The battery moves from being something that supports our technological desires, to a statement object that make things speak.

four batteries connected with each other, in acidic solutions (vinegar and lime juice), lighting a LED bulb

photos from the exhibition “Forma” at Ideificio Torinese, Turin.

A letter from my device to me

Iʼm part of you, so I can read your thoughts easily. You and I remember the first time you managed to buy the laptop you so deeply wanted. There I was, a brand-new MacBook Pro all for you. I represented status, functionality, aesthetic values; letʼs be honest, Iʼm a perfect designed artefact. 
Me? I was ready to learn about my owner. There I was, naive and information empty. All the parts inside of me, from the hard drive to the smallest metal, started working. Have you ever looked at the wonderful complexity that I am? Iʼm better than a globe. Iʼm the holistic object par excellence. Each part of me comes from a different part in the world; I crossed the main oceans; I have been touched by countless fingertips and experienced all kinds of climate. I experienced the equatorial climate of Congo, the wet season in Bolivia, the temperate climate in Mongolia. Nevertheless, this is not important for you. Or letʼs say, you are not aware of this. Globalised markets, cheap labor, hyper-fragmented production. Thatʼs what you and I are intertwined in. Connected, even if you donʼt want to. 
Then one day, the time to say goodbye arrived. I learned a lot from you, and you treated me well. There was a part inside of me that was not working anymore, and no, that was not your fault. I know how much you wanted to keep me with you, but I was dead for you. Inexistent, yet existent. A useless hulk.
Iʼm constantly amazed on how things change, but donʼt disappear. I feel like I changed so many times in such a short life. So voraciously wanted in the beginning, then a tireless worker, and after that an unusable dead matter, hoping to dissolve in the air.