Even if you’ve never heard the word “europium,” you’ve at least definitely seen its physical manifestation. The rare earth metal has various uses, including to enhance both the security of Euro banknotes as well as the brightness of colors on phone displays. In her film ‘Europium’ – now screening at the IBB Video Space at Berlinische Galerie – artist Lisa Rave depicts the uses of this metal in order to address a larger narrative of colonial history.
She begins with the story of Tabu, a shell currency that Papua New Guineans continue to use in daily life and which, in the 19th century, according to legend, German colonialists tried to forge. Rave links this to Westerners’ current plans to extract europium from the floor of the Bismarck Sea, which is located to the north of the Pacific island. She interlinks these narratives without any apparent hierarchy, giving each their own space and context, but she also often returns to the spiral of a nautilus mollusk as a driving motif.
This specific video is one of many of Rave’s works that deal with colonialism and its lasting effects. The British-born, German-raised artist repeatedly asks her audience to confront how colonialism is presented today, by highlighting the complexity of issues and connections between cultures, economies, geostrategies and power interests.