Countering Extractivism: On Lithium

Marina Otero Verzier, Sammy Baloji, On-Trade-Off

‘Charging Tesla Crash, a Speculation’, Jean Katambayi, Sammy Baloji, Daddy Tshikaya, Marjolijn Dijkman <br> © Uriel Orlow
‘Charging Tesla Crash, a Speculation’, Jean Katambayi, Sammy Baloji, Daddy Tshikaya, Marjolijn Dijkman
© Uriel Orlow

The evening will be dedicated to what has been described as “green colonialism,” the development of renewable energy futures that often involves the dispossession of communities and the degradation of ecosystems. The event will focus on the consequences of the extraction of lithium, a scarce resource that plays a key role in the so-called green transition necessary for a more sustainable world.

Since 2005, Sammy Baloji has been exploring the memory and history of the Democratic Republic of Congo. His work is an ongoing research on the cultural, architectural and industrial heritage of the Katanga region, as well as a questioning of the impact of Belgian colonization and extractivism. 

The artistic research group On-Trade-Off (whose members include, among others, Alexis Destoop, Marjolijn Dijkman, and Femke Herregraven) takes the recent appetite for lithium as a point of departure to investigate a broad range of questions surrounding raw materials for technological industries, financial speculation, and the history of electricity.

In her exhibition Compulsive Desires: On Lithium Extraction and Rebellious Mountains (Galeria Municipal do Porto, 2023), architect and curator Marina Otero Verzier addresses the entanglement between extractivism and exhaustion, productivity and burnout, taking as her starting point the lithium extraction plans in northern Portugal and the struggles sustained by local communities for their lives and rights.

The evening will be followed by a conversation, moderated by Nikolaus Hirsch and Silvia Franceschini, and Electrifying Everything, a performance by Pom Bouvier-b and Marjolijn Dijkman (with a text by Jean Katambayi Mukendi).

Wednesday, February 7, 2024
CIVA, Rue de l'Ermitage 55, 1050 Brussels
With the support of
Ambassade van het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden in België
Goethe Institut Brussels, Belgian presidency of the Council of the European Union


Marina Otero Verzier is an architect based in Rotterdam. She is Head of the Social Design Masters at Design Academy Eindhoven. In 2022 she received the Harvard University Graduate School of Design Wheelwright Prize for a project on the future of data storage. From 2015 to 2022 she was the Director of Research at Het Nieuwe Instituut. 

Sammy Baloji is a visual artist based in Brussels. In 2008 he co-founded the Rencontres Picha/Biennale de Lubumbashi. PhD at Sint Lucas Antwerpen, he has received numerous fellowships and distinctions, notably at the Encounters of Bamako and the Dakar Biennale and was a laureate of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. Recent personal exhibitions include K(C)ongo, Fragments of Interlaced Dialogues, Palazzo Pitti, Florence (2022) and Beaux-Arts de Paris (2021); Sammy Baloji, Other Tales, Lund Konsthall and Aarhus Kunsthal (2020). He has recently participated in the 35th Bienal de São Paulo (2023), the Architecture Biennale of Venice (2023), the 15th Sharjah Biennial (2023), Sydney Biennial (2020), documenta 14 (Kassel/Athens, 2017).

On-Trade-Off is a collaborative research group (with variable geometry) of visual artists and critics that works on the contemporary dimensions of a question as old, as mythical, and as strategic as ourrelation to energy.  The group was sparked by the “discovery” of a large lithium deposit in Manono, a mining area in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The mine is not only a place of historical extractivism but plays a key role for the promise of green energy. The group includes: Alexis Destoop, Marjolijn Dijkman, Pélagie Gbaguidi, Femke Herregraven, Dorine Mokha & Elia Rediger, Jean Katambayi Mukendi, Frank Mukunday & Tétshim, Musasa, Alain Nsenga, Georges Senga, Pamela Tulizo, and Maarten Vanden Eynde. On-Trade-Off is an artist-run project initiated by Picha (Lubumbashi) & Enough Room for Space (Brussels).