Jean Shin Exposes The Environmental Price We Pay for Our Desire to Connect

"Easy come, easy go," goes the saying. That which we have not earned is easy to waste. This has been our attitude towards the gifts of mother nature. Our digital dependence comes at a cost.

Jean Shin puts this on display in “Pause” (2020), an art installation at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, as she sculpts thousands of discarded electronics into a landscape.

Shin has a history of creating installations where the material is the meaning. Similar to Pause, her Everyday Monuments (2009), relied on borrowed/acquired objects. For the display, she turned borrowed sports trophies into action figures celebrating everyday labor.

The display, at the Smithsonian, turned borrowed sports figure trophies (with modifications involving brooms, hammers into action figures celebrating everyday labor by modifying the athletic figures with tools of middle-class trades (hammers, brooms, etc.).

Shin is no newcomer to art with environmental messaging. For MaiZE (2017), she molded cut plastic bottles to resemble cornstalks. This installation had geographical significance since it was at display in Iowa, where plastic pollution is a problem. "Pause," too, holds similar art-to-city connection in that San Francisco is a hub for tech and telecom industries.
Huddled Masses is center-stage: a sculptural work comprised of three modified columns crafted from plastic and metal. Nostalgia hits you as you examine is and recognize some of the now-obsolete devices: BlackBerry Pagers and flip phones from brands that have moved on. Cables around the base form waves as if crashing into a lighthouse of now isolated -- forgotten -- technology.
Even the seating was incorporated into the show with poufs woven from ethernet cables. Visitors can sit on the poufs and ponder the twist of fate as components of technology are given an analog function.