Rare Earth is 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 seventeen 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, are fundamental to contemporary accoutrements 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.
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.
Copublished with Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna on the occasion of the exhibition “Rare Earth,” February 19–May 31, 2015, with works by Iain Ball, Erick Beltrán, Julian Charriere, Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen, Camille Henrot, Roger Hiorns, Marguerite Humeau, Jean Katambayi Mukendi, Oliver Laric, Ursula Mayer, The Otolith Group, Katie Paterson, Charles Stankievech, Suzanne Treister, Ai Weiwei, Guan Xiao, Arseniy Zhilyaev
ContributorsIain Ball, Erick Beltrán, Jane Bennett, Benjamin H. Bratton, Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen, Erik Davis, John Durham Peters & Paul Feigelfeld, Mircea Eliade, Boris Groys, Marguerite Humeau, Timothy Morton & Emilija Skarnulyte, Boris Ondreička, The Otolith Group, Jussi Parikka, Matteo Pasquinelli, Nadim Samman, Charles Stankievech