On 19 September 2020, Het Nieuwe Instituut opens Lithium, an exhibition conceived as a spa resort, in which the beneficial and harmful aspects of the eternal human search for energy are highlighted through the work of researchers, designers and artists. How many times can we recharge our batteries without addressing the causes of depletion in both humans and the planet?
Lithium powers laptops and electric cars. It treats physical and mental disorders. Since its discovery in 1817, this metal has been a vital resource for energising the planet, playing a fundamental role in maintaining our current capitalist economy. Yet, at the same time, lithium has aggravated the burn-out of ecosystems and human bodies.
Staged as a mineral spa, the exhibition Lithium invites visitors to experience the states of exhaustion and revitalisation to which bodies are subjected in today’s economy. Here visitors are encouraged not to look for the nearest socket to charge their phones, but to recharge themselves through a series of lithium treatments of lithium treatments.
Our continued search for energy cures can, nevertheless, exacerbate the problem. After all, how many times can our batteries be recharged? This exhibition, therefore, exposes the destructive effects of lithium technologies and industries that lead to ecological devastation, the dispossession of Indigenous peoples, and forms of social control through mass medication. In doing so, Lithium aims to spark a debate on larger questions of burn-out and productivity in relation to the human body and the planet.
With contributions from David Habets, Cameron Hu, Stefan Schäfer, Juan Arturo García, Nicolás Jaar, Maarten Meij, Godofredo Enes Pereira / Lithium Triangle Studio, Alice Wong and others. The spatial design of the exhibition is by Katrin Bombe and the graphic identity of the project was developed by Austin Redman.