press release

Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary's most ambitious thematic exhibition to date, RARE EARTH is nothing less than an attempt to define the spirit of an age. Exploring how today’s myths, identities, and cosmologies relate to current advances in technology—through reference to the material basis to our most developed weapons and tools; a class of 17 rare earth elements from the periodic table—RARE EARTH challenges the rhetoric of immateriality associated with our hypermodern condition.

Rare Earth elements are the game-changing foundation of our most powerful innovations. First deployed on an industrial scale with the invention of the cathode ray television screen, they are fundamental to contemporary accouterments such as mobile phones, iPods and iPads, liquid crystal displays, LEDs, light bulbs, CDs and DVDs. Often described as conflict materials due to the limited number of easily accessible mines, they are also integral to weapon systems used for cyber-warfare, medical technologies (including MRI scanning equipment), hybrid vehicles, wind turbines and other green energy applications. Consequently, Rare Earth elements play an increasing role in global affairs and power inventions that facilitate our changing self-image—giving birth to today’s emergent myths and identities.

Featuring ten newly commissioned pieces and seven pertinent contributions (17 artistic positions: one for each Rare Earth element), RARE EARTH grounds our strange, seemingly weightless cultural moment. While we may design our technologies, these tools and weapons shape us in turn. It may seem that we dream the contemporary into existence, but perhaps Rare Earth elements are dreaming through us. After the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age, this is the age of RARE EARTH.

Featured artists Ai Weiwei (CN), Iain Ball (UK), Erick Beltrán (MX), Julian Charrière (CH), Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen (UK, BG), Camille Henrot (FR), Roger Hiorns (UK), Marguerite Humeau (FR), Oliver Laric (AT), Ursula Mayer (AT), Jean Katambayi Mukendi (CG), Otolith Group (UK), Katie Paterson (UK), Charles Stankievech (CA), Suzanne Treister (UK), Guan Xiao (CN), Arseniy Zhilyaev (RU)

Curated by Boris Ondreička & Nadim Samman

A catalogue will be published by Sternberg Press to coincide with the exhibition, featuring contributions by Iain Ball, Benjamin Bratton, Erick Beltran, Jane Bennett, Revital Cohen & Tuur van Balen, Erik Davis, Paul Feigelfeld & John Durham Peters, Luciano Floridi, Boris Groys, Francesca von Habsburg, Marguerite Humeau, Timothy Morton, Reza Negarestani, Boris Ondreička, Matteo Pasquinelli, Jussi Parikka and Nadim Samman.

RARE EARTH is accompanied by a program of symposia and events in Vienna and Berlin, organized in collaboration with Spike Art Quarterly magazine (Vienna/Berlin) and Import Projects (Berlin).