On-Trade-Off' is an ongoing artistic research project that raises awareness of the environmental and economic implications of the extraction and processing of lithium, the main raw material needed for the global production of green energy.
The installation 'On-Trade-Off' consists of a presentation of ’Le Vide / The Void’ by Georges Senga, ’Technofossil’ by Maarten Vanden Eynde and a display case with On-Trade-Off research materials.
The starting point for the research project On-Trade-Off is 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) allows the project to zoom in on particular social, ecological, economic and political phenomena that characterize the production processes currently experiencing rapid growth.
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 in the exploitation and extraction processes; a perpetuated economic imbalance to maintain economic growth; uninformed end consumers who are unaware of both the devastating production chain behind the goods they have purchased and their afterlife in the sense that a recycling scheme is lacking.
As well as a display of related research material from the trip to Manono by Maarten Vanden Eynde, Jean Katambayi and Gulda El Magambo in June 2019, the presentation in the last phase of the Contour Biennale will include:
Georges Senga, ‘The Void / Le Vide’, 2019
Georges Senga has produced a new photo series called ’The Void / Le Vide’, developed in and around abandoned mining sites and factories belonging to Gecamines, the biggest mining company in Katanga that is currently nearly bankrupt. What void is left behind after their decline in the 1980s? What void do the artisanal miners leave behind after digging tunnels with their homemade pickaxes, which ironically look like the Tesla logo? The central themes in Senga’s work are issues linked to the idea of “memory” – the memory of who we are, what we have and where we come from.
Maarten Vanden Eynde, ‘Technofossil’, 2019
As humans have colonised and modified the Earth’s surface, they have progressively developed more sophisticated tools and technologies. These underpin a new kind of stratigraphy, termed ‘techno-stratigraphy’ by Jan Zalasiewicz (Chair of the Anthropocene Working Group of the International Commission on Stratigraphy). This specific technofossil depicts a fossilised lithium battery made of lithium-rich ore from Manono. Most workers in the mines (les creuseurs) do not know what the materials they are extracting are used for. The promising global knowledge distribution made possible thanks to computers and smartphones connected to the internet, has not made it back to the place where it all began. The gap between the beginning and the end, between cause and consequence, is unbelievably big. The project ’Technofossil’ brings the two worlds closer together by sculpting the electronic devices or battery directly into the rock, as if they have always been there, waiting to be discovered or liberated.
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 (NL/DRC), Daddy Tshikaya (DRC), Maarten Vanden Eynde (BE)
Overall coordination and production: Katrien & Julia Reist / arp: Brussels (BE)