Upgrade Available is a series of artworks and writings by Julia Christensen about our complicated relationships with obsolete electronics and recordable media. The standalone art pieces illuminate the ways in which we encode our electronics with our identity, our memory, and our legacy; when shown together, the pieces form a body of work that tells a story about technological obsolescence, upgrade culture, and ultimately, the e-waste crisis of the 21st century.
This work began in 2011 when Christensen visited a corporate e-waste processing plant in southern India, and was faced with 200 tons of electronic trash, most of which had been imported from the United States in the two weeks before her visit. These mountains of e-waste led Christensen to question how and why we purchase, consume, and throw away electronics at such an unsustainable rate in contemporary culture. Our electronics increasingly become appendages of our human experience, and yet we have not thought critically about an exit plan for our obsolete electronic material. The artworks in Upgrade Available are about the relationships we have with our smartphones, VHS tapes, digital files, projectors, and computers. The associated writing unpacks the e-waste crisis, and how human experience informs and creates the seas of electronic trash currently circulating the globe.
Below, find links to the art pieces that make up this body of work. Extensive information about each piece, along with exhibition images, can be found on the project pages of this website. The PRESS page links to relevant pieces written by Christensen and others about Upgrade Available, from publications/websites such as Bomb, Cabinet, Vice/Creators Project, and more. The BOOK page describes Christensen’s forthcoming book about Upgrade Available, which will include documentation of these art pieces, with expanded writings about how our complicated relationships with electronics are implicit in the contemporary e-waste crisis.
Upgrade Available is supported by a Creative Capital Fellowship (Emerging Fields), with additional support from The MacDowell Colony, the Wexner Center for the Arts Film/Video Program, Oberlin College, and the Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award.