In Brief

Putting the “Mobile” in Automobile: A Car Made from Discarded Cell Phones

Lin Shih-Pao building "F1 Green Race Car," 2015 (screenshot by the author)
Lin Shih-Pao building “F1 Green Race Car” (2015) (screenshot by the author via YouTube)

Americans throw away approximately 130 million cell phones every year. Where do these old phones go when they die? Too often, they pile up in toxic e-waste sites in the world’s poorest nations, posing serious health risks to the people (many of them children) who melt the phones down in order to extract and sell the metals they contain.

Four the past four years, Taiwanese artist Lin Shih-Pao has been traveling the world, trying to prevent a tiny fraction of the world’s discarded phones from adding to this e-waste problem. After spending $30,000, he managed to amass a collection of 25,000 old and discarded cell phones. Now, after four months of labor, he’s transformed this pile of dead devices into a life-sized, two-ton sculpture of a car. Color-sorted cell phones glued and nailed to a wooden frame form mosaicked silver hubcaps, black tires, and a rainbow hood. “The work represents hopes for human technology to transition to cleaner energy sources,” Lin told the Taipei Times. It’s a particularly inventive artistic interpretation of the EPA’s mandate to “reduce, reuse, recycle.”

Detail of "F1 Green Race Car" by Lin Shih-Pao, 2015 (screenshot by the author)
Detail of Lin Shih-Pao’s “F1 Green Race Car” (2015) (screenshot by the author via YouTube)

The car was installed this month at Lin’s former high school in Taipei City, Taiwan. Students at the school helped Lin collect discarded phones.

“This is modern art made from recycled first-class garbage,” Lin says in a video by the Times of Oman. “It’s just like a statue that must be slowly, slowly carved. I carved it for four months. With this you can see the progression of art from traditional to modern, all produced by high-class garbage.” The process of turning trash into artistic treasure isn’t a first for the 53-year-old Lin, who studied art at the Nagoya University of Arts and New York University. In 2005, he collected one million pens for a piece called “Gate of Peace,” and in 2006, he made a Christmas tree from 100,000 pacifiers. He’s also known for “The Pink,” a car made of gloves collected from laborers, meant as a tribute to Taiwanese farmers.

Lin has named the car F1 Green Race Car in Mandarin. The “F” stands for future, “1” for hope.

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