Seeing Lithium – Countering the Myth of ‘Green’ Transition through Contemporary Art

4 May 2023 7 May 2023

Film program 4–7 May 11.00–16.00, Project room

Seminar 6 May 14.00–16.00, Top Floor

Curator: Victoria McCarthy

Lithium, ‘white gold’, ‘petroleum of the 21st century’ are some of the names used to designate the soft, silvery-white metal at the heart of the future ‘green’ energetic transition. In a time where countries in the Global North make deals and agreements to transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable energies, lithium’s relevance is increasing.

The artworld’s interest in lithium has grown in the last years, with cultural projects and exhibitions on lithium taking place in different parts of the world. Artists are starting to show a profound interest in the intersection between lithium and contemporary art, researching its origin in the Big Bang, the consequences of lithium mining activities in extractive zones, supply chains, Indigenous creation stories, the effects of lithium in human and non-human bodies, or the supposed intangibility of our virtual world. Many of the artworks produced in this context facilitate insights into the geopolitics of ecology, by providing resistance and countering the dominant narrative of the ‘green’ transition.  

Seeing Lithium is divided in two parts. Firstly, a film programme that brings together five short video works created by Unknown Fields, Juan Arturo García, Alejandra Prieto, LiCo (David Habets, Cameron Hu, and Stefan Schäfer), and Grupo de Investigação Territorial. The selected videos explore lithium’s current and future extraction sites in the Global North and the Global South, its impact on our states of mind, its origin in the beginning of everything, and the socio-political conflicts it brings forward.

The second part of this programme consists of a seminar, where contemporary artist David Larsson, sustainability researcher and professor Henrik Ernstson, and visual arts curator Victoria McCarthy present different approaches and considerations about the current state of affairs of lithium, its extraction, and its intersection with contemporary art.

Film program 4–7 May, 11.00–16.00

Participating artists:

Unknown Fields
Unknown Fields is a nomadic art- and design research studio founded in 2009 by Australian in-dependent designer, architect and curator Liam Young, and British artist, architect and writer Katie Davies. Their practice seeks to show the shadows cast by contemporary cities, venturing into expeditions in remote sites of the world. They use primarily film and animation to create chronicles of narratives embedded in global systems and supply chains, shedding light on the consequences of emerging environmental and technological scenarios.

Juan Arturo García
Juan Arturo García is a Mexican contemporary artist, currently a resident at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. His practice explores accented ways of living, their biopolitical affordances, and tactics for their representation. His latest research studies the production of scientific knowledge in Latin America throughout history, with a particular focus on how complex intertwinings of technical, cultural, mystical, and political desires have been deployed – and how to understand their consequences.

Alejandra Prieto
Alejandra Prieto is a Chilean contemporary artist who uses paintings, videos, sculptures, and installations as her media. She studied a BA in Arts in the Catholic University of Chile, and an MA in Visual Arts at Chile University. She has exhibited her works in many art spaces in Chile, and in several international venues and events, such as the La Habana Biennial, Saatchi Gallery (London), SIART Biennial (La Paz), Palais de Tokyo (Paris), and Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros (Mexico City).

LiCo is a research-based art collective which produces fictions, films, and installations on the choreography of mental and environmental life. The collective is composed of physicist, landscape architect and artist David Habets, anthropologist of technoscience Cameron Hu, and political theorist and researcher Stefan Schäfer.

Grupo de Investigação Territorial (Territorial Research Group)
Grupo de Investigação is an action-research collective focused on ecological and socio-environmental struggles, composed of researchers and architects Antonio del Giudice, Godofredo Enes Pereira, Jacob Bolton, Mingxin Li, and Tiago Patatas. The group first came together to shed light on the implications of the planned mining projects in the Barroso region, in the North of Portugal.

Seminar 6 May, 14.00–16.00

Participating speakers:

David Larsson
David Larsson is a Swedish contemporary artist based in Jordbro and Stockholm. He works with long-term artistic investigations, focusing on issues of social development and modernity, political events, natural resources, and collecting/archives. These results of these investigations are continuously presented through installations and exhibitions. Alongside artists Hanna Ljungh and Gideonsson/Londré, he initiated the exhibition Litiumtiden at Haninge Konsthall (2022) and the Litiumfestivalen on the island of Utö (2022), where they explored a multitude of perspectives on lithium.

Henrik Ernstson
Henrik Ernstson is a Strategic Sustainability researcher and professor, currently working at KTH. He is developing a situated approach to urban political ecology with a special focus on southern and postcolonial urbanism, and, at the same time, a film-based research practice, that uses cinematic ethnography, montage and essay film to engage in the texture, embodiment, and situatedness of political and environmental practices, knowledges and politics. He has published the books Grounding Urban Natures: Histories and Futures of Urban Ecologies (MIT Press, 2019), and Urban Political Ecology in the Anthropo-Obscene: Interruptions and Possibilities (Routledge, 2019).

Victoria McCarthy
Victoria McCarthy is an Argentinian visual arts curator and producer. She worked as an exhibition producer and education coordinator at the Centro Cultural Kirchner in Buenos Aires, the largest cultural centre in Latin America. In 2021, she relocated to Sweden in pursuit of an International Masters in Curating Art at Stockholm University. She co-curated with Yul Cho the performance piece How to Draw a Voice, by artists Heidi Edström and Feronia Wennborg for Accelerator; and coordinated the IASPIS Open Studios Autumn 2022. Her current curatorial research explores the intersection between lithium extraction and contemporary art.

This programme is free and does not require RSVP. Both the film screening and the seminar will be held in English.

With support from

Seeing Lithium is part of a degree project within Curating Art, International Master’s Programme at the Department of Culture and Aesthetics, Stockholm University.This project was made possible thanks to the support of the Department of Culture and Aesthetics, Stockholm University, and Färgfabriken.