Find us at: Durnford Street, Bristol, BS3 2AW

Pixel Mining

Exhitbition Open
23rd - 25th July 
Hours 12 - 6 pm

Opening Event
23rd July
7 - 10pm
Featuring Saltings and Bit Miners

We mine and refine rocks to make pixels glow. Digital electronics now outnumber human beings. Each unit uses the vast majority of terrestrial metals in its components. According to the US Geological Survey 22 billion handheld electronic devices were manufactured in 2014. The LED screens in these devices used 130kg of gallium, 170kg of cerium, 120kg of arsenic and 180kg of lanthanum. If we knew the average number of pixels in each device we could calculate the geological cost per pixel of our screen time. The earth observation satellite Sentinel II produces another image of every site from which its raw materials were extracted every five days. These images have a ground resolution of 10 square metres per pixel, but we can’t calculate how many square metres of terrestrial surface were turned over to produce each pixel in its camera. If we could, we might be able to derive a planetary resolution: the total number of pixels the Earth can support.

Using hacked PC monitors, satellite time-lapse, and found footage of electronics manufacture and recycling, this new video installation connects the flickering screen image with the cycles of extraction that make its appearance possible, asking how many pixels and how much screen time the planet can sustain.

Stephen Cornford is a media artist who works with digital electronics, critiquing the ideologies they embody and the constitutive role they play in our lives. His current research is concerned with the physical materiality of digital image hardware, the scarcity of metals that are now ubiquitous in cameras and screens and the toxicity of many of the processes by which they are extracted. The resulting work problematises the technological solutionism often proposed to resolve the environmental impacts of rampant media consumption. Stephen is Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at Oxford Brookes University and currently Earth Art Fellow at the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences. He has had solo exhibitions in Tokyo, Berlin, Brighton, Bergen, Ljubljana & London and his work has been included in group exhibitions at the ZKM Center for Art & Media, Karlsruhe; ICC, Tokyo; Haus der Electronische Kunst, Basel; Sigma Foundation, Venice and at Biennials in Coventry and Poznan.