Artist Reminds Us Just How Physically Taxing Digital Technologies Are

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On a recent trip to the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, my wife and I visited the exhibit entitled “New Order Art and Technology in the Twenty-First Century.” I was struck by many of the pieces, but particularly this banner-like artwork by Sam Lewitt called Weak Local Lineament (Copperhead 08). Lewitt sought to draw attention to the ways that digital technologies, which seem airy and ephemeral, actually exact a harsh tax on the environment–as in the case of mining for copper, an essential element of computer hardware. He worked with a hardware manufacturer to print the image of snakeskin on copper and then embellished the work with etchings to bring attention to the copper’s presence.

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