Technology has been woven in the fabric of our lives. But as people try to keep up with the latest advancements, it’s becoming one of the fastest-growing pollutants in the world. Of the 50 million tonnes of e-waste produced each year, only 20% is recycled. The rest piles up in landfills, and eventually spills into the environment. One artist is piecing together a solution. Repurposing unwanted keyboards, Erik Jensen is making masterpieces that clean up our act.
Born deaf, Jensen learnt to express himself with art. He went on to study at Utah Valley University, where a professor challenged him to create an artwork using only items in his immediate environment. Scouring his surroundings, Jensen’s gaze finally settled on the worn-out keys of an old computer. He scooped them out of their sockets and assembled the letters into a human face. Proving that the keys could be used to create breathtaking art, he turned upcycling keyboards into a full-time career. “They are so beautiful and there’s so much history in them,” Jensen says. “I wanted to preserve them.”
His innovative take has stirred interest and awe across the globe. By colouring the keys in a tried-and-tested dye, Jensen transforms the dull symbols into vibrant murals that pique curiosity. His prized portraits include Albert Einstein, Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night, and abstract constellations. Detailed and intricate, Jensen’s pieces are constructed with up to 1 000 different keys and it can take approximately three months to complete just one. Moved by his mission, companies have started donating their old equipment to Jensen. Now with thousands of keyboards at his fingertips, he is picturing a new era for e-waste. “Life is too short to copy someone else,” Jensen says. “We need to be crazy and try new things.”