REE_minder - Conversation Pieces

REE_minder Phone Cases (2016) shown at ISEA2016 Hong Kong, International Symposium for Electronic Art; part of the ongoing work Conversation Pieces: REEs

REE_minder Cases are 3D printed smartphone cases created as an artist rendering based on topology maps of the Bayan Obo Mining District, People's Republic of China, where the largest deposits of the world's Rare Earth Elements (REE) are found and sourced.  Due to their unique magnetic, catalytic, and phosphorescent properties, REEs play an essential role in the creation of our consumer electronics such as smartphones, laptops, wearable electronics as well as our "green" technologies such as wind turbines and hybrid cars, and military defense systems.

Rare earth elements, although abundant in our earth's crust, are considered rare because of their concentration in most soil samples – estimated to be between 150 to 220 parts per million. As there are very few large and concentrated deposits of them, mining for REEs is a time-consuming and expensive process which creates hundreds of gallons of salty wastewater per minute, consuming huge amounts of electricity, requiring toxic materials for the refining process and occasionally unearthing dirt that is radioactive.

The goal of creating an intimate enclosure for our most used and disposed of consumer device, the smartphone, into direct contact with a representation of it's mineral and geological origins - bringing the two ends of the global supply chain together (origin and end product). In addition, my hope is to create a shift in ecosophical perspectives in media and consumer culture; to spark a dialogue between the wearer of these art objects and the onlooker, thus spreading awareness of their existence, curiosity around them, and critique of their use. It is a part of the ongoing work Conversation Pieces: REEs, which discusses media materialism during our technological evolution in the Anthropocene/Capitalocene, creating wearable art objects that serve as a spring-board for discussion.

Special thanks to Aaron Porterfield