Project: Ground | Overground | Underground
Dates: July – August 2009
Locations: Kinshasa | Mbandaka, DRC
Ground | Overground | Underground is a project of Congolese trans-disciplinary collective Mowoso. Its first showing took place in November 2010 at Afropolis, an exhibition on African cities curated by Christian Hanussek and Kerstin Pinther.
Ground | Overground | Underground is a project built in, around and through a range of different space-time-states that exist as both separate and conjoined entities – as blocks that can be assembled and disassembled at will. The project allows Mowoso to experiment within an open system of networked creation: to develop work and research processes that result in multiple forms, each and all of which can be presented in different place- and time-scapes.
The starting point of the project is a series of videos, sound recordings and photographs made in 2009-2010 in three places:
- In Mbandaka (DRC), over the course of a six week SPARCK residency. The city of Mbandaka stands astride the Equator, directly below one of the single most important loci anywhere in our globalised 21st century world: the Geostationary Earth Orbit, which hosts a majority of the planet’s communication satellites;
- In Kinshasa, the capital of DRC;
- In Mikili: a hybrid, mythic “third space” located in Western Europe.
Drawing on the materials collected and created in these places, Mowoso is building polysemic, Afrofuturistic performance, installation and architecture.
Melding fiction and faction, Ground | Overground | Underground tells the story of a very particular journey: the psychic path that a man must travel to make his way from the continent he calls home – Africa – to the “West”, the nucleus of 21st century digital globalisation.
The images and sounds at the heart of the project evoke dreamspace itineraries, all leading to Mikili, a place, a state of being and a state of mind that many young people in Congo hope against all hope to reach, because there, they imagine, they will find solace (comfort, means, luxury) to replace the violence visited on their land over the past one hundred and fifty years.
In the world of Ground | Overground | Underground, hybrid identities rub up against and collide with one another in a postcolonial universe traversed by robots – massive creatures built by installation artist Bienvenu Nanga – and performances filmed by Mowoso founding members Dicoco Boketshu and Eléonore Hellio: peculiar, poetic works “starring” Boketshu, musician and artist Bebson Elemba (aka Bebson de la rue), Wemba (one of Congo’s most famous wrestlers), performance artist Antoine Mofilinga and others. Objects, images and sounds appear and disappear, moving in and out of a post-industrial “machine”.
Made out of found, countermanded and recombined materials – everyday objects radically rethought – the Ground | Overground | Underground machine bears witness to the sheer avalanche of electronic technology overtaking our world. In doing so, it calls attention to the devastation wrought in Congo by the “first world”’s mad rush for coltan, a precious metal essential to the production of cell phones, satellites and missiles. 85% of the planet’s coltan reserves are located in DRC, Ground | Overground | Underground reminds us, and because money is worth more than lives, millions have died there in wars fuelled by global capitalist greed.