Turning digital waste into art

Madhvee posing with one of her pieces called ‘Another Face in the Crowd’. — Photos: JEREMY TAN/The Star

BROWSE through hard drives, memory cards or cloud storages and one is likely to find caches of rejected images with no useful purpose.

With digital technology allowing photographs to be taken effortlessly, clicking away has become second nature in daily life.

Like many, Indian artist Madhvee Deb has her fair share of rejected images.

But rather than leaving them as forgotten megabytes, she used them to raise awareness on social issues in a subtle way.

Layering multiple images together, she created dynamic composites — 10 of which were displayed at Ome by Spacebar Coffeein Toh Aka Lane, Penang.

A small helix-shaped sculpture made with discarded photographs and epoxy resin.
A small helix-shaped sculpture made with discarded photographs and epoxy resin.

The recent exhibition titled ‘Digital Waste: The Sweet Smell of Burning’ was part of the just-concluded George Town Festival 2018.

In her artist’s statement, Madhvee noted that the exhibition was meant to highlight the taking of excessive photographs and the disproportionate exchange of worthless information on social media platforms.

She is concerned that it leaves people lost in a virtual world, detached from meaningful relationships and always seeking instant gratification.

“Often times, one can be so engaged without actually being connected to a place or person. What’s experienced naturally is no longer enough.

Devotees’ spiritual journey is seen in ‘Religious Elegance’.
Devotees’ spiritual journey is seen in ‘Religious Elegance’.

“Instead, we depend on digital means and are so self-engrossed that we don’t notice the nuances around us,” she said during the opening of her first solo exhibition in Penang.

Madhvee pointed out that she was not condemning the over-reliance on digital tools but merely showing what one ismissing out by doing so.

Each of her exhibited pieces contained anywhere from a blend of five up to 25 individual images, all taken at a particular location.

There are also numerous small sculptures made with discarded photo prints and epoxy resin.

“Photographers often have a habit of test printing images. So rather than throw them them, I turned them into sculptures,” added the 40-year-old, who splits her time between Penang and Singapore.

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