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Tightrope 9 (work of art)

Artwork Info

Elias Sime
Six panels, overall:
63 x 236 1/2 inches (160 x 600.7 centimeters)


Purchased with funds from Mr. and Mrs. N. Richard Miller in memory of Martin B. Rosenthal, by exchange

Object Number
Mixed Media

Key Ideas

  • These six panels are hung separately but are joined together so that they appear to be one continuous piece. Each section is made up of metal circuit boards that have been cut and attached to the surface to form shapes. The metal shapes are mostly green, with a strip of blue (like a river) in the center, interrupted in places by red and yellow elements. These colorful metal pieces are both separated by and tied together with rope-like metallic shapes that add rhythm and unity.
  • Tightrope is the title of Sime’s largest and most famous series of mixed-media works. The title refers to the tension between the progress that humans have made because of technology and the negative impact technology has had on the environment.
  • Sime gathers his “technology scraps” from Merkato, the central market of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Sime says his work is not simply “upcycling.” He says he thinks of his materials as having “human traces” from traveling all over the world, and he pieces them together as a way to show global human connection.

Learn More

Elias Sime finds scrap materials such as buttons, batteries, bottle caps, clothes, and discarded computers and cellphones. He repurposes them into large-scale assemblages, or works of art made by grouping found objects. Most of his materials come from Merkato, an open-air market in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where electronic waste is shipped in bulk from other places around the world. 

According to the artist, the series title Tightrope refers to the “balance a city must maintain to survive and thrive.” Tightrope 9 was constructed out of discarded computer circuit boards, cut into pieces and combined into complex patterns on six individual panels that are displayed close together. Many of Sime’s works, including this one, look like bird’s-eye views of big cities with areas of land, trees, and rivers running through them.

tags: contemporary art, environment, interdependence, part/whole, technology


Additional Resources

Resources for Teachers:


Resources for Students:

  • Watch a video about the installation of one of Sime’s Tightrope works.
  • Watch a video to learn about Sime’s creative process.
  • Read quotes to learn more about the artist in his own words.


  • A wide, horizontal image of a six-panel work of art made up of green, blue, red, and yellow circuit boards formed into interconnecting organic shapes.

    Tightrope 9

    Mixed media art made from reclaimed electronic components