A Natural History of Digital Rubbish draws on ideas around obsolescence and likens outdated technologies to fossils.

In the early 20th century, German philosopher Walter Benjamin observed how the abundance of unwanted objects and outdated fashions dormant in tucked-away shopping arcades and superseded architectural styles reflected the mounting pace of technological advances, industrialisation and mass production in his epoch. He compared these characteristics of modernity to preceding periods of ‘natural history’ that lasted millions of years.

What Benjamin responded to in early-20th-century modernisation has become even more clear in the present global, digital age. Electronic gadgets are designed with the same aim of relentless technological innovation and abundance. The flipside of this is fast-tracked obsolescence, with the global generation of e-waste estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of tonnes each year.

The digital realm is often perceived as post-material, where images, media and information are transmitted from one device to another. Nevertheless, electronic devices become outdated from one year to the next, stockpiled or are shipped overseas to be recycled and the last economic value extracted from them, often in unsafe and dangerous circumstances.

The sculpture draws on scientific representations of the natural world, with reference to geology, palaeontology, and also archaeology. One such mode is the cross-sectional diagram, where matter is sliced away from a surface, to show the accumulation of layers over time. The traditional sculptural languages of casting and sculptural relief, along with newer techniques of digital scanning and fabrication, are used to form a three-dimensional vision of obsolete, embedded, sedimented technologies as A Natural History of Digital Rubbish.
—Michael Bullock, October 2022

The artist would like to thank the following for their assistance in producing the artwork: Cally Martin and Phillip Abramson at the Faculty of Information Technology, Monash University; Alex Lyne, Tom Heath and Sophie Takach at Ace Lab; Ed Turner at the dFab lab, Monash Art Design and Architecture; Troy Demunck, Murat Itz, Tony Taylor and Brent Buenaflor at Tes-Amm; and Charlotte Day and Alicia Renew at the Monash University Museum of Art | MUMA.