University of Leeds: Creative solution to e-waste wins DARE Art Prize 2022

The prize is part of the ground-breaking DARE partnership between the University and Opera North, in association with the National Science and Media Museum and The Tetley.

It offers the opportunity to work in partnership with scientists at the University, as well as staff and performers from Opera North, to collaborate on new approaches to the creative process.

Essex-based Katie’s entry addresses the problem of e-waste: the valuable resources in discarded electronic devices which include gold, silver, copper, platinum, aluminium and cobalt.

Collaborating with scientists from the University’s School of Chemical and Process Engineering and the Henry Royce Institute for advanced materials, Katie will use microbes to extract metal from e-waste and create electroplate sculptures.

I have an aversion to modern technology and my work is often inspired by folklore, stories and skills from the past.

Katie Surridge, DARE Art Prize Winner 2022
Katie said: “I’m over the moon to have been selected for the DARE Art Prize. I’m sure that having the support, facilities and connections that the prize offers will allow me to develop some of my most exciting work to date.

“I have an aversion to modern technology and my work is often inspired by folklore, stories and skills from the past. My last major body of work involved making my own iron from ore. But my DARE project will transport me from the Iron Age back to the present, where I will be looking at extracting metal from e-waste using microbes.

“I want to start with public workshops, collecting the stories of people who donate the e-waste, then go on to build machines to crush the appliances, eventually ending up with a metal-rich liquid which will be used to electroplate sculptures.”

Having spent more than three years at the National School of Blacksmithing – where she worked with masters of the art in Japan and archaeologists and metallurgists in Ireland – Katie’s practice often combines her metalworking skills with public engagement.

“A genuine interest in connecting with people through absurd artistic interventions and inventions is key”, Katie said.

The past three winners of the DARE Art Prize have each interacted with the work of the University and Opera North in very different but equally inventive ways.

The winner of the 2020-21 prize, poet and visual artist, Redell Olsen, overcame pandemic restrictions by working remotely with scientists at the University’s BioDAR insect radar unit, singers and music staff at Opera North, and objects in the collection of the National Science and Media Museum.

Professor Frank Finlay, Dean of Cultural Engagement and Director of the Cultural Institute at Leeds, said: “The novelist and scientist C P Snow coined the notion of ‘The Two Cultures’ over 60 years ago, and we’re still struggling to bridge that gulf between the ‘soft’ humanities and the ‘hard’ sciences today.

“The DARE Art Prize is unique in its brief of bringing creative artists into contact with scientists, and the three previous winners have done important and exciting work both to create new works of art and to stimulate new interdisciplinary research. I’m really excited to see what Katie will come up with during her tenure”.

Katie will begin forging collaborative relationships with staff at the partner institutions over the coming weeks, with an outcome – in whatever form it takes – expected a year from now.


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