Earthing Discharge is a first result of a research project that explores how electricity as natural science has been linked since the 18th century to enlightenment ideals. Although people have been fascinated by electricity since early civilisation, the scientific properties of electricity only began to be properly understood in Europe during the Enlightenment. Most electricians in that period were considered entertainers, similar to magicians, and the public electrical demonstrations did not explain the science, but rather turned the phenomena into spectacular events.
Earthing Discharge returns to this moment in time when electricity was still made visible, in contrast to today where most electrical processes are hidden from the eye and more or less taken for granted.
Produced as part of research conducted for On-Trade-Off, an ongoing artistic-research project that raises awareness about environmental and economic implications of the extraction and processing of Lithium, the main raw material needed for the global production of Green Energy, initiated by the art organisations Picha (DRC) and Enough Room for Space (BE).
Earthing Discharge (Panorama)
Size: Width 11,5 m. x Hight 7 m.
Material: Adhesive vinyl
Assistants photography & editing: Sebastiaan Helbers, Gilles Ribero
Technical assistant: Lukas Pol (electrotechnician)
Commissioned by: Contemporary Art Center (CAC), Cincinnati, US
Part of: FotoFocus Biennial 2020
Supported by: Mondriaan Fund, Dutch Culture USA
"Earthing Discharge is an extension of Dijkman's research into the history of electricity and the environmental impact of contemporary energy storage. By documenting materials linked to what may become one of the largest lithium mines in the world in Manono in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the artist comments on the ecological fallout generated from mining this valuable mineral and the toxic electronic waste produced as a result of the rise of green energy.
For this commissioned wallpaper, Dijkman creates a collage comprised of photographs depicting items associated with technology and energy use —minerals, circuit boards, and personal devices. Arranged across our 40-foot lobby wall, the images are rendered in high contrast, emphasizing the objects’ electrical fields and radiant glow. Dijkman’s labor-intensive process involves activating the conductive matter using high voltage electricity and photographing them through conductive glass similar to what is used in smartphones. The resulting blue and purple halos and irregular linear rays, a phenomenon known as corona discharge, is caused by the ionization and electrical disturbance of adjacent air. The photographic collage makes visible electric currents that we rarely see, calling attention to the systems of extraction that support most of the world’s modern energy, communication, and mobile computing technologies."
- text by Amara Antilla (senior curator at CAC)