The exhibition Lithium includes the following contributions by researchers, designers, musicians and artists.
David Habets, Cameron Hu, Stefan Schäfer
This Extraordinary Rock
Inspired by commercials for mineral supplements and other lithium-enriched products, the film This Extraordinary Rock by David Habets, Cameron Hu and Stefan Schäfer takes the form of a sales pitch.
Do you remember what normal felt like?
Nostalgic for a lost normality, the salesperson character advocates for this special mineral as a cure for exhaustion. The script reflects on the systemic conditions and crises that have led to the global depletion of energy.
Navigating between the salt evaporation ponds in the Atacama Desert, equity firms in Shenzhen and energetic figures such as Evo Morales and Elon Musk, the film also underlines the omnipresence of this element in the environment, public waterways, human brains and interstellar matter. Is the solution to global burn-out simply a matter of concentration?
The Rush for White Gold
This drone sequence by Cédric Gerbehaye reveals the sublime landscape of evaporation pools at the lithium pilot plant in the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia.
Bolivia is home to the world’s biggest reserves of lithium. The Bolivian government faces many political challenges in effectively managing this complex new industry, while also satisfying the interests of the multinational, national and departmental stakeholders, as well as Indigenous communities.
Whose benefits are at stake with the exploitation of lithium?
Highlighting the paramount importance of this metal for Bolivian economic growth, the film shows the lithium deposits in the Salar de Uyuni. Unusually salty and wet, flooded by seasonal rains and mixed with magnesium, these deposits are especially complicated to extract, posing another technical challenge for the Bolivian industry.
A Charged Dream
A Charged Dream by story designer Alice Wong unveils the history of the lithium-ion battery. The video installation exposes the ways in which batteries are charged – not only with electricity, but also with ideologies.
Since their invention in 1973, lithium-ion batteries have promised a green redemption from the escalating climate crisis.
Yet how sustainable is the continuous striving for more energy?
From the presidential address by Richard Nixon during the 1973 oil crisis, to the aggressive commercials for long-lasting devices and the spectacular pitches of Elon Musk, the work is centred on the language of promises to “recharge”. Playfully depicting how lithium has come to power the exuberant lifestyles of consumerism and production, the film questions the techno-capitalist vision of the future driven by Tesla and the major battery producers.
Calculated Combustion, by graphic designer and animator Maarten Meij is an installation centred around a lithium battery catching fire.
The reactivity and unstable characteristics of lithium have complicated the work of scientists for decades. Samsung, Sony and other companies have notoriously recalled millions of devices as some of their batteries began to explode.
Overheating, or “thermal runaway”, leads to a sudden release of energy, and is a common cause of explosion.
The simulation shows the process in slow motion, engaging with the eerie aesthetics of the self-destructing technology. Paired with a sequence of found footage, it highlights the moments in which lithium has played a crucial role in the destruction of machines, ecosystems and human bodies: from blasting smartphones in 2016 to the thermonuclear explosion in Castle Bravo in 1954.
Godofredo Enes Pereira, Nicolás Jaar, Lithium Triangle Studio (Mingxin Li, Antonio Del Giudici, Yvette Waweru, Melis Goksan), Mingxin Li with Anabel Garcia-Kurland
The Ends of the World
Godofredo Enes Pereira discusses The Ends of the World, the multi-screen installation about lithium extraction and its consequences, made together with Lithium Triangle Studio (Royal College of Art).
The Ends of the World addresses the socio-environmental destruction resulting from the extraction of brine for the production of lithium. Focusing on the microbial and symbiotic ecologies of the Atacama Desert in Chile, the installation looks at salares (salt flats) as environments that both live and give life. More than an analysis of lithium, the project aims at re-framing the ways in which resource extraction is understood and debated.
In order to say which worlds are ending, we should first ask which worlds exist.
Juan Arturo García
In this audio-visual installation, artist Juan Arturo García reflects on the so-called cosmological lithium problem.
Is there enough lithium in the universe?
While relatively abundant on the surface of our planet, the third element created in the Big Bang, lithium, is strangely scarce in our galaxy.
The cosmological lithium problem is a scientific dilemma based on the difference between the observed lithium in the universe, and the much larger amount of lithium that should theoretically exist. Attempting to solve the mystery of the missing element, very large telescopes (VLTs) are relentlessly searching for its evidence in distant stars. The animation mimics spectroscopy and other sensing techniques used by scientists in their ongoing search for lithium, on both macroscopic and microscopic scales.