• Alice Wong

A Charged Dream is a serious, yet playful exploration of the history of the lithium battery, which might be more popular than ever, since the rise of the smartphone. These four videos show the other ways these batteries are charged: not only with electricity but also with ideologies. The videos are bookended by excerpts from a speech by President Richard Nixon. He speaks about the oil crisis in the 1970s and the need for America to develop its own sustainable energy source. The videos keep increasing in intensity, mimicking a battery that gets drained during the long and heavy performance. How sustainable is sustainable actually? The second video dives into a colourful, yet aggressive montage of the late 1980s and early 2000s commercials for lithium batteries: each type of battery seems to be replaced almost immediately by a better, more powerful, longer-lasting new one. Nixon’s practical aim has become a capitalist dream product, based on research from Nobel Prize-winning, both American and Japanese scientists, giving the search for a new energy source an international scope. The third video slows down to the flow of a sales pitch. It zooms in on entrepreneur Elon Musk who talks about the possibilities of electric cars, ‘fuelled’ by sunlight. Lithium is as abundant as the shining sun, he seems to believe, which sounds environmentally aware, but on second sight it seems to be a justification to consume even more. The fourth video combines the voices of scientists talking about the central role of batteries in modern society, with images of space travel, combined with a few of President Donald Trump’s nationalistic eruptions. Then the video cuts to Musk talking in front of an audience. Someone hails him as a kind of saviour, but is this unseen man being genuine or sarcastic? This sentiment is echoed in the images of the rocket: is it a metaphor for endless new possibilities or ways to escape destructive routines? What once were luxuries, Nixon states, at the end of the last video, have become necessities. Exhibiting from 18 September 2020 to 16 May 2021, at Lithium curated by Ina Hollmann & Anastasia Kubrak at Het Nieuw Instituut. Design assisted and data analysed by Crys Leung, sound designed by Yuval Reuven, text written by Maarten Buser, photographed by Johannes Schwartz.