Rare Earth

Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary / TBA21, Vienna, Austria
19 Feb 2015 - 31 Mar 2015

Rare Earth

RARE EARTH : Erick Beltrán / TBA21, 2014

Rare Earth is an attempt to define the spirit of our age: an exhibition relating myth, identity, and cosmology to current advances in technology. Featuring 17 artists and 10 new commissions, it will be Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary’s most ambitious thematic exhibition to date.

The exhibition explores the material basis for the most technologically developed weapons and tools – a class of 17 ‘rare earth’ elements from the periodic table which are the game-changing foundation of our most powerful innovations – materials that underpin an ever-expanding list of technologies. First deployed on an industrial scale with the invention of the cathode ray television screen, they are now found in everything from mobile phones and iPods and iPads to liquid crystal displays, LEDs, light bulbs, CDs, DVDs, and hard drives.

Often described as ‘conflict materials’ due to the limited number of easily accessible mines, rare earth elements are also integral to weapon systems used for cyber-warfare, medical technologies, including MRI scanning equipment, hybrid vehicles, green energy and wind turbines. Consequently, rare earth elements play an ever-increasing role in global politics and economics. In keeping with TBA21’s interest in social and geopolitical issues, participating artists represent ten countries worldwide, including those directly involved in rare earth extraction and trading.

Curator Nadim Samman commented, ‘This project is a provisional attempt to define, through an exhibition, the spirit of our times. The works in the exhibition address the fact that while we may design our technologies, these tools and weapons shape us – in both obvious and less obvious ways. It is clear that the most revolutionary, game-changing, basis for today’s new tools and weapons are a class of seventeen elements on the periodic table – rare earth elements. The works in this exhibition offer visitors insight into that which is omnipresent but, somehow, less than visible.’

Curated by: Boris Ondrei?ka and Nadim Samman

Participating artists include:

Ai Weiwei (China), Camille Henrot (France), Ursula Mayer (Austria), Katie Paterson (UK), Otolith Group (UK), Iain Ball (UK), Roger Hiorns (UK), Erick Beltrán (Mexico), Julian Charriere (Switzerland), Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen (UK, Belgium), Charles Stankievech (Canada), Marguerite Humeau (France), Suzanne Treister (UK), Jean Katambayi Mukendi (Congo) and Oliver Laric (Austria).



OPENING: February 19, 2015 from 7pm
followed by After Party at Fluc from 10.30pm

ARTISTS TALK: February 20 at 4pm




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