Point of departure for the exhibition at Imane Fares is the research project On-Trade-Off that studies the raw material Lithium. A naturally occurring element (number three on the periodic table), Lithium is currently considered to be ‘the new black gold’ because of its crucial role in the global transition towards a ‘green and fossil fuel free economy’. Focusing on this one chemical element (Li3) from the periodic table, allows the project to zoom in on particular social, ecological, economic and political phenomena that characterize the production processes that are currently in full development. These phenomena show striking similarities with production chains as we have known them since the start of triangular trade in the 16th century: inhumane labour during the exploitation and extraction processes; a perpetuated economic imbalance to maintain economic growth; uninformed end-consumers that are unaware of both the devastating production chain that led to their purchased wholesale goods, as much as their afterlife in the sense of a lacking recycling scheme. Exploring and exposing the full production chain around Lithium enables On-Trade-Off to connect the seemingly independent phenomena that sustain this recurring dis-balance, thus opening a field for reflection about alternatives. At Imane Fares, a few first new works presented next to some existing works from participating artists.
On-Trade-Off follows the trail of lithium, starting from one specific mine in D.R. Congo, called Manono, which is supposed to contain the world’s largest reserve of this raw material. Informed by the complex, global processes to produce ‘sustainable’ energy, the journey continues to the largest single battery in the world, Tesla's Energy Storage System in Australia, to finally land in the South of China, the biggest retail hub for electronic- and storage devices worldwide. In order to understand its complexities, the research will start with looking at (industrial) production process from A to Z: Where does the raw material come from? Who owns it? Who takes it out of the ground? Where is it shipped to? What is being made out of it? Who profits from it? What is the true cost of things? What is the afterlife? By dissecting the entire production process and revealing the singular elements and steps within, On-Trade-Off aims to give way to awareness and understanding to both ends of this process (the consumer and the producer) and give back agency to responsibility and ability to have an impact and voice within the discussion of sustainable world and production.
Initiated by: Picha (Lubumbashi, DRC) and Enough Room for Space (Brussels, BE)
Participants: Sammy Baloji (BE/DRC), Jean-Pierre Bekolo (FR/CM), Alexis Destoop (AU/BE), Marjolijn Dijkman (BE/NL), Gulda El Magambo (DRC), Femke Herregraven (NL), Jean Katambayi (DRC), Frank Mukunday (DRC) & Trésor Tshibangu (DRC), Musasa (DRC), Georges Senga (DRC), Rosa Spaliviero (BE/IT), Daddy Tshikaya (DRC), Maarten Vanden Eynde (BE)
The project is designed as a collaborative research by a (still growing) group of visual artists and will result in a series of new (collaborative) art works, reflective texts and (educative) working materials. While each of the participants approaches On-Trade-Off from his or her own artistic interests and medium, their works will sprout from collectively developed knowledge and research material around the subject, to be used as open source / shared materials, introducing a more sustainable method of (art) production.
On-Trade-Off offers a platform for trans-disciplinary knowledge, that thanks to its holistic approach, will help to better understand the processes that shape(d) our current world. To elaborate this narrative and create long-term spin-offs, the project will seek the collaboration with a multitude of people and organizations from different backgrounds: visual artists, cultural producers, local communities, NGOs, film makers, thinkers, activists, computer engineers, designers either living in the location and connected to the world, or people engaged in this complex and global issue of environmental change. In the course of the next two years, On-Trade-Off will be developed and presented in various places, formats and contexts, each presentation focusing on different parts of the storyline. The first of these presentations took place from 10-12 January 2019 within the framework of Contour Biennale 9 in Mechelen (curator Natasa Petresin- Bachelez) and will be part of this program throughout 2019.