Model of Tesla X in copperwire, under construction, work in progress Daddy Tshikaya, Sammy Baloji and Jean Katambayi

Ongoing since 2018


Experimental research project

Initiated by: Picha (Lubumbashi, DRC) and Enough Room for Space (Brussels, BE)

Involved:  Sammy Baloji (BE/DRC), Jean-Pierre Bekolo (FR/CM), Alexis Destoop (AU/BE), Marjolijn Dijkman (BE/NL), Gulda El Magambo (DRC), Femke Herregraven (NL), Jean Katambayi (DRC), Frank Mukunday (DRC) & Trésor Tshibangu (DRC), Musasa (DRC), Georges Senga (NL/DRC), Daddy Tshikaya (DRC), Maarten Vanden Eynde (BE)

Financial support: Contour Biennale 9; Digital Earth Fellowship (Hivos Fund); Cargo in Context; Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF); Thami Mnyele Foundation; De Brakke Grond, Mondriaan Fund, Z33.

Presentations of On-Trade-Off: Picha, Lubumbashi, DRC (2018 - 2019); 9th Contour Biennale, Mechelen, BE (2019); Gallery Imane Farès, Paris, FR (2019); La Colonie, Paris, FR (2019); Enough Room for Space, BE (2019); Cargo in Context, Amsterdam, NL (2019); De Brakke Grond, Amsterdam, NL (2019); 6th Lubumbashi Biennale, DRC (2019).

Involved producers: arp: / Katrien Reist and Julia Reist

Curator On-Trade-Off  film programs: Rosa Spaliviero

Point of departure for the research project On-Trade-Off is the raw material Lithium. A naturally occurring element (number three on the periodic table), Lithium is currently considered to be ‘the new black gold’ because of its crucial role in the global transition towards a ‘green and fossil fuel free economy’. Focusing on this one chemical element (Li3), allows the project to zoom in on particular social, ecological, economic and political phenomena that characterize the production processes that are currently in full development.

These phenomena show striking similarities with production chains as we have known them since the start of triangular trade in the 16th century: inhumane labor during the exploitation and extraction processes; a perpetuated economic imbalance to maintain economic growth; uninformed end-consumers that are unaware of both the devastating production chain that led to their purchased wholesale goods, as much as their afterlife in the sense of a lacking recycling scheme. Exploring and exposing the full production chain around Lithium enables On-Trade-Off to connect the seemingly independent phenomena that sustain this recurring misbalance, thus opening a field for reflection about alternatives.

Research in process
The project is designed as a collaborative research by a (still growing) group of visual artists and will result in a series of new (collaborative) art works, reflective texts and (educational) working materials. While each of the participants approaches On-Trade-Off from his or her own artistic interests and medium, their works will sprout from collectively developed knowledge and research material around the subject, to be used as open source / shared materials, introducing a more sustainable method of (art) production.

On-Trade-Off offers a platform for transdisciplinary knowledge, that thanks to its holistic approach, will help to better understand the processes that shape(d) our current world. To elaborate this narrative and create long-term spin-offs, the project will seek the collaboration with a multitude of people and organizations from different backgrounds: visual artists, cultural producers, local communities, NGOs, filmmakers, thinkers, activists, computer engineers, designers either living in the location and connected to the world, or people engaged in this complex and global issue of environmental change. In the course of three years (2019-2021), On-Trade-Off will be developed and presented in various places, formats and contexts, each presentation focusing on different parts of the storyline.


On-Trade-Off is developed in relation to the larger framework of Triangular Trade, a project initiated by Enough Room for Space in 2017. Triangular Trade investigates the influence of transport and trade of pivotal materials like rubber, oil, ivory, copper, diamonds, gold, cotton and uranium, but also people, on exponential economic growth, the creation of nations and other power structures. The project traces back the origin of the different materials and follows their (r)evolutionary paths as they are processed and transformed into 'world changing wonders'.