KONGO ASTRONAUTS [RDC]
Postcolonial Dilemna #Track4 (Remix mix), Untitled [-5] & Untitled [-9], 2019
6th International Digital Art Biennial
Arsenal Contemporary Art Montreal
12.01.2022 - 02.05.2023
Kongo Astronauts is a Kinshasa-based collective founded in 2013 by artists Michel Ekeba and Eléonore Hellio. Their work across disciplines, media, political borders, restrictive artistic and cultural boundaries, and temporal thresholds reimagines our shared futures and elicits thoughts of resistance and renewal. Their performative responses to the postcolonial environment in the Democratic Republic of the Congo invite audiences to bear witness to KA’s offering of these courageously enacted alternate realities. By remixing and repurposing quotidian objects and words, KA gives life to new visual elements and linguistic creations that are fantastical in their presentation while remaining grounded in the reality of life in Kinshasa. KA currently feature in (N)Tonga: between future and dust, Brussels, Belgium. Their solo show Congo Gravitational Waves // A Metadigital & Tantalean Tale, at College of Visual Arts and Design Galleries, University of North Texas, Denton, closed recently and will travel to other venues.
Postcolonial Dilemna #Track4 (Remix mix) within the multi-dimensional world of Bebson Elemba, 2019, Single channel video, 14’08’’ , 5 + 2AP
Produced by Kongo Astronauts, featuring Michel Ekeba, Papa Jean, Bebson Elemba, Daniel Toya, Celestin, Démon de la danse, DJ Angleterre, Mbuku Kimpala and Enfants de Lusanga
©Kongo Astronauts. Courtesy Axis Gallery, NY & NJ
In Postcolonial Dilemna #Track4 (Remix mix) a non-narrative journey opens with a metaphor of extractivism —which Kongo Astronauts defines as the economic process of colonial and post-colonial extraction that operates both on natural resources and on human subjects. In Kinshasa an environmental warning manifests in a machete dance, and a barefooted man ascending a trash filled jungle path speaks to planetary abuse. A masked man with a fiery weapon links violence in eastern Congo with themes of ecology. A Darth Vader figure cannot remove the burden of imposed western systems represented by his mask. One spacewalker is asking the viewer to pay attention while the other is losing control. Bebson Elemba burns dysfunctional objects creating toxic fumes. We are in the belly of the beast, but there is also a flower, an owl, a flock of birds, children make music out of garbage. In the end, clay is being formed, evoking past, present and future possibilities.
Untitled [-9], 2021 - SCrashed_Capital.exe series Pigment print on Fine art Baryta paper, 112cm x 168cm / 44" x 66", 3 + 2 AP © Kongo Astronauts, Courtesy Axis Gallery,
The circuit boards seen on this spacewalker (found in nearly all electronic devices, including cell phones, laptops, and gaming consoles) use tantalum, a chemical element extracted from coltan, one of the five conflict minerals of which 80% of the world’s supply is located in DRC. Tantalum was named after the villainous Greek mythological figure Tantalus because of the “tantalizing” challenge of dissolving the element due to its high density and resistance to heat and acids. Tantalus, was doomed to be forever surrounded by good things without permission to enjoy them, as are the citizens of the DRC, who find themselves situated in a nation widely considered the world’s richest in terms of natural resources but who remain among the world’s most economically oppressed. In this series a spacewalker highlights this contradiction wondering the rough streets of Kinshasa, engaging the city’s inhabitants, and encountering a “B.B.C. restaurant” displaying currency exchange rates, referencing the cycle of cyber-trash integral to our global market.
Untitled [-5], 2021, SCrashed_Capital.exe series, Pigment print on Fine art Baryta paper, 112cm x 168cm / 44" x 66", 3 + 2 AP © Kongo Astronauts, Courtesy Axis Gallery, New York