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What is the story behind the creation of a battery powered future? Through contributions by Unknown Fields (Kate Davies and Liam Young) and astronomer Francisco Förster, the third event in the TNL! Lithium series will explore the cosmological origins of lithium, and its role in the ‘green’ energy transition.

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Created during the Big Bang, the chemical element lithium now seems, inexplicably, to be missing from our universe. This so-called cosmological lithium problem is one of the greatest mysteries of our times, driving scientists to relentlessly search for this element in outer space. Their search today is matched on Earth by companies that, predicting shortages of lithium for decades to come, keep prospecting our planet for new energy sources.

A performative lecture by Unknown Fields will travel through the energy landscapes of the Bolivian Salt Lakes and the Atacama Desert, and explore the cultural origins of our electric futures—from sacred mountains to Incan mythologies. Astronomer Francisco Förster will discuss the history of the Big Bang theory, and provide keys for unlocking the biggest unsolved problem in cosmology.

Unknown Fields

Unknown Fields (UK/AU) is a nomadic design research studio directed by Kate Davies and Liam Young. They venture out on expeditions into the shadows cast by the contemporary city, to uncover the industrial ecologies and precarious wilderness its technology and culture set in motion. Unknown Fields make provocative objects, films and books from this expedition work, published extensively in The Guardian, BBC, Wired, New Scientist, and collected by The New York Metropolitan Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum and M+ in Hong Kong among others.

Francisco Förster

Francisco Förster is an astronomer and research scientist at The University of Chile. He did his PhD at the University of Oxford, and works on supernova science and astroinformatics. He leads the project ALeRCE, which is trying to classify all the variable objects in the sky.

TNL! Lithium

Complementing the exhibition Lithium, which is currently on show at Het Nieuwe Instituut, this discursive programme seeks to recharge online visitors with a series of lectures and conversations. From mineral extraction to mental exhaustion and renewable energy landscapes, each event will expand on the role of lithium in the different conditions of burn-out that are addressed in the exhibition.

Delany Boutkan, Marten Kuijpers, Klaas Kuitenbrouwer, Setareh Noorani
Alex Walker