Julian Charrière
Future Fossil Spaces, 2015
On loan to the exhibition Climate of Concerning: Burning out in the Age of Fossil Expressionism at Radius CCA, Delft, the Netherlands

Curated by: Niekolaas Johannes Lekkerkerk and Sergi Pera Rusca

Climate of Concern examens the current over-reliance on fossil fuels and minerals through the work of nine artists.

In 1991, the petrochemical business group Shell released the documentary Climate of Concern, which displayed the potentially catastrophic consequences of climate change: increasing drought, extreme weather, floods, crop failures, disappearing islands, and migration. Nevertheless, Shell, alongside other companies such as Exxon and BP, deliberately hid internal reports carried out in the nineteen-eighties that predicted the catastrophic planetary consequences of the increasing emission of carbon dioxide released by fossil fuels extraction. Still to this day, Shell continues to do business as usual by profiting from fossil fuel extraction, actively contributing to climate change. Coal, petroleum, and natural gas have become an inseparable part of all aspects of industrial and energy production, and a substantial part of the technological ‘progress’ in history has been possible through the extraction of such resources. As a consequence, we have become intertwined with fossil memory so much so that there is no single aspect in our lives that is not somehow impacted by the (ab)use of fossil fuels. Everywhere we look there is a manifestation of what philosopher Peter Sloterdijk has called ‘fossil expressionism’: from the buildings we inhabit, the pavement they stand on, and the cars that pass them by, to the clothes we wear or the wrapping of our food; traces of fossil fuels are part of our daily landscape, identity, and existence.

Future Fossil Spaces is part of a global reflection of Julian Charrière on the digital era, a world of increasing dematerialization that nevertheless is grounded in the material elements of the earth. The work consists of stacks of salt bricks from the Salar de Uyuni. This salt flat, the world’s largest, located in the Bolivian Andes, holds one-third of the world’s lithium reserves, and remains largely unexploited. It is likely that this place will become the main production site of this precious element as our dependence on lithium-based technology keeps growing. Lithium is mainly concentrated in brine—water containing a high amount of salt—found under the surface salt bed. Brine is pumped, stocked in settling ponds carved out of the salt crust, where its concentration rises for a year by evaporation, before lithium is harvested. It’s these salt blocks that Julian Charrière has transported, cut and piled up in the exhibition space. Each brick stacked on top of another resembles the age lines of strata, reminding the viewer of the lengthy geological processes which lead to these resources as juxtaposed against the potential rapid destruction of this environment.

In this sense, the work’s title, Future Fossil Spaces, refers to future negative spaces that will be carved in the earth by these mining operations, effectively demonstrating how the enlargement of the virtual world requires a hollowing-out of the world of natural resources.

Future Fossil Spaces originates from the collection of the Family Servais.