Nor Tijan Firdaus' artworks give new purpose to e-waste


Nor Tijan poses in front of her piece 'The Quest' (e-waste on blockboard, 2024). It features discarded computer parts and also a nod to one of her beloved video games, 'Super Mario'. Photo: The Star/Azlina Abdullah

Broken keyboards, unused wires, outdated motherboards and a plethora of discarded computer parts are some of contemporary artist Nor Tijan Firdaus' favourite materials used to make art.

In her second solo exhibition Seek (which runs through Feb 26), the works see the adventurous Klang-based sculptor raising awareness about environmental issues and highlighting the creative potential of discarded e-waste materials, and staying true to a recycling mindset.

The Seek exhibition, featuring seven large (wall installation) works, at the Core Design Gallery at Subang Jaya City Centre (SJCC), is a different proposition than her debut show New Formal in 2021, which focused on tributes to Western artworks and legendary Malaysian paintings.

"As an artist as well as a mother, I want to first spread the awareness on our easy throw-away culture, in the hopes that we can begin to change our habits," says Nor Tijan, who has four children.

'Silent Conversations' (left) combines a chessboard game with a dialogue box, symbolising the ongoing battle between human progress and the environment, while 'The Allure Of More II' (righ) highlights modern day consumerism and greed. Photo: The Star/Azlina Abdullah 'Silent Conversations' (left) combines a chessboard game with a dialogue box, symbolising the ongoing battle between human progress and the environment, while 'The Allure Of More II' (righ) highlights modern day consumerism and greed. Photo: The Star/Azlina Abdullah

The 38-year old artist, who is a trained sculptor, also obtained her Masters In Fine Art And Technology in 2015 from UiTM Shah Alam. Apart from two solo shows, she has participated in group shows and art fairs.

"When I was working on my Masters, I had a young family at home, and noticed the amount of waste that was suddenly accumulating like hand-me-down devices from friends and family," she adds.

The Seek exhibition, which took a year-and-half to complete, captures her thoughts and ideas on how to inform viewers about the environmental impact of waste, notably e-waste.

"I started questioning how we buy, replace and update not only technology such as phones and computers, but clothes, children’s toys along with furniture," she says.

A visitor takes a closer look at Nor Tijan's 'Balloons Of Hope' (e-waste on blockboard, 2024). The combination of tech parts laid across the different levels of the block board create an almost glitch-like effect. Photo: The Star/Azlina Abdullah A visitor takes a closer look at Nor Tijan's 'Balloons Of Hope' (e-waste on blockboard, 2024). The combination of tech parts laid across the different levels of the block board create an almost glitch-like effect. Photo: The Star/Azlina Abdullah

In her art practice (since the New Formal show), using only recycled materials for art projects is one way that she can reduce waste and save resources.

"Every day, about 50 to 100 tonnes of e-waste is being collected by centres (nationwide) that you probably don't think about," says Nor Tijan, describing her (art material) sourcing process.

"I start by sketching my ideas on paper, thinking about the parts that could hypothetically be used, like wires for lines or cooling fans for circles. I then pick and sort out those parts at the e-waste centre," she adds.

While addressing issues of sustainability, and materialism in her new series, Nor Tijan also added, curiously, she tries to keep the e-waste material used in its original form, damaged or not.

Nor Tijan revisited a childhood dream to create a beach scene in 'The Price Of Progress', with a contemporary spin on beach pollution. Photo: The Star/Azlina Abdullah Nor Tijan revisited a childhood dream to create a beach scene in 'The Price Of Progress', with a contemporary spin on beach pollution. Photo: The Star/Azlina Abdullah

"I try not to use spray paint on the materials in order to retain the original colour of the materials. The parts tell a story of its technological era."

At the SJCC gallery, visitors can take a closer look at how intricate details of computer parts and electronics have been pieced together to drive home powerful environmental messages.

She recommends each work be viewed from different distances, especially if you want to spot an old school video game character.

Nor Tijan also does not limit herself to e-waste since discarded toys (some from her home) such as Lego blocks, Hello Kitty figures and plastic soldiers also feature in one of her works.

For her, this Seek exhibition is her way to start a dialogue about the impact of waste, hoping these works can inspire small changes in the way we consume and dispose material possessions.

"It took me some time to learn about e-waste management and what happens to such materials after we throw them away. Using art, I'm sharing what I have learned and picked up ... literally," she concludes.

Nor Tijan Firdaus' Seek is showing at Core Design Gallery at Subang Jaya City Centre (SJCC) till Feb 26. Free admission. Open: 9.30am to 6pm. More info here.

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