The second event in the TNL! Lithium series will address the relationship between lithium and mental health. Contributions by the LiCo (Lithops Corporation) collective and anthropologist Emily Martin will explore the role of lithium in our culture of productivity, and the cultural life of mania.
Lithium is one of the most widely used medications for bipolar disorder, and has been used for centuries to make people happier in times of economic crisis. By the 19th century, prestigious spa resorts had already opened around lithium-rich springs, promoting the soothing power of the element. Two weeks before the Wall Street Crash of 1929, these curative qualities were marketed in Lithiated Soda — later known as 7Up — which was promoted as a mood enhancer for exhausted workers.
This online event links the medical history of the element lithium to the American culture of productivity and self-optimisation, through a performative lecture by the collective LiCo (Lithops Corporation), followed by an exclusive interview with anthropologist Emily Martin on the role of mania in popular culture — from Nirvana to the television series Homeland.
Complementing the exhibition Lithium, which is currently on show at Het Nieuwe Instituut, this discursive programme seeks to recharge online visitors with a series of lectures and conversations. From mineral extraction to mental exhaustion and renewable energy landscapes, each event will expand on the role of lithium in the different conditions of burn-out that are addressed in the exhibition.
LiCo (Lithops Corporation) comprises architect David Habets (NL), anthropologist Cameron Hu (USA), and political theorist Stefan Schafer (DE). Their collaboration examines past and future choreographies of mental and environmental life. LiCo’s recent work includes the essay The Missing Mineral in Migrant Journal 5, and the video This Extraordinary Rock for Het Nieuwe Instiuut’s exhibition Lithium.
Emily Martin (USA) is a sinologist, anthropologist and feminist. She is a professor emerita in anthropology at NYU and was a professor at Princeton University. Drawing on her own experience with bipolar disorder, she wrote Bipolar Expeditions: Mania and Depression in American Culture, in which she argues that mania and depression have a cultural life outside the confines of psychiatry, and examines their relation to the “rational” fields such as economics and the stock market.