Mumbai based artist Haribaabu Naatesan recycles e-waste and turns them into art installations.
In today’s time, everyone’s life is plugged in electronic devices. But, what happens to these electronic devices when they stop working or are replaced with the latest model available in the market? They ultimately land up in open areas. And, this trash is huge. In fact, according to a study conducted by ASSOCHAM-NEC last year, India produces over two million tonnes of e-waste per annum, making it among the top five generators of e-waste in the world.
A ray of hope amidst such a dark picture is Mumbai-based artist Haribaabu Naatesan, known popularly for creating Make in India logo that features the silhouette of a lion on the prowl, made entirely of cogs. The artist recycles the e-waste and transforms them into art installations.
“Once I get the e-waste, I just turn them into an installation and that for me is mukti (liberation) for that particular discarded material,” says Haribaabu who terms his art as ‘Green Design Works’ and believes that he is reducing the carbon footprint in this process. For the artist, the philosophy of mukti works to eliminate the entire process through which e-waste reaches open fields or recycling companies through different agents. “This process involves a lot of energy and I stop all these things through my art,” explains the artist and adds, “Every scrap that comes to me reaches its final destination and then stays there forever.”
His process involves assembling the waste material and then storing them. Later, he categorises all parts based on their size, shape, colour, and type. Once the segregation is done, he assembles the pieces to create a piece of art. On this journey since 1999, the artist has implemented his imagination on tonnes of e-waste - from a life-size yellow Volkswagen Beetle to a steampunk clock tower.
Although now a significant name, his beginning was rather humble. A graduate of National School of Art and postgraduate from the National Institute of Design, NDA- Ahmedabad, Haribaabu first started making small animation characters only to secure the admission in NDA. After completing the course in Animation design, he moved to Chennai and started working as a professional animator until he finally settled in Mumbai in 2006. However, according to the artiste, his journey as an e-waste installation artist didn’t start till he finally left his job at a production house in the city and moved back to his graduation skills – creating artwork.
“I wasn’t happy because there were a lot of creative compromises and then I decided to go back to what I was doing initially. But, I thought small characters won’t make any difference. So, I started making two inches semi-relief sculpturseand then started recycling electronic gadgets and other things,” recalls the artist. Adding further he says, “I knew I won’t be earning much but I would be satisfied at least. So, I quit my job.”
After quitting his job, Haribaabu worked on a few art pieces in the next two years and invested his entire savings. Although it earned him a lot of appreciation, there were no returns in terms of money. He was taken aback with how things were working out. However, soon he received a fellowship award and a solo show in Delhi where fifty per cent of his work was sold. “It was like exhibition cum sell,” says the artist. However, things weren’t in his favour even now as people would call his artwork as something made of scrape and weren’t ready to keep that in their house. “It was tough initially because people were like ‘junk mai banaya hai, kyu lene ka (it is made of junk, why should we buy it?)’ and I would explain to them the truth behind it that I transform scrap to a different medium,” explains the artist.
In the last ten years, Haribaabu’s work has been displayed in many art galleries and national exhibitions across the nation. He has been invited as a guest artist in ‘artist in resident’ programme organised in Azerbaijan. One of his most iconic works of art that one comes across is the Make in India logo, which was unveiled by the Chief Minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis. Recreated using 1500 kgs of automobile scrap mostly mechanical gear wheels, the installation has found its place at P D’Mello Road and Carnac Bunder Circle.