Tantalum Memorial

Harwood, Graham; Yokokoji, Matsuko and Wright, Richard. 2008. Tantalum Memorial. In: "2nd Biennial 01SJ Global Festival of Art on the Edge 2008", California State University, 2008-11. [Show/Exhibition]

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Item Type:

Creators: Harwood, Graham; Yokokoji, Matsuko and Wright, Richard
Abstract or Description:

Tantalum Memorial is a series of telephony-based memorials to the more than 4 million people who have perished in the complex wars that have gone on in the Congo since 1998, often referred to as the ‘Coltan Wars’. Coltan ore is mined for the metal tantalum, an essential component of mobile phones and similar devices.

The first thing that visitors see is a towering rack consisting of electromagnetic Strowger telephony switches. The undertaker Almon Brown Strowger patented this design in 1891, the first automated telephone system of its kind. The switches are triggered by a computer which is tracking calls from Telephone Trottoire, a ‘social telephony’ network designed for use by the international Congolese diaspora. The audience can see the dialling progress of the calls on a nearby monitor and can hear the messages which are being passed around through headphones (spoken in Lingala). Telephone Trottoire was designed by the artists in collaboration with the London radio programme Nostalgie Ya Mboka. The movement and sound of the switches create a concrete presence, in real time, for this intangible network of conversations, weaving together the ambiguities of globalisation, migration and our addiction to constant communication.

Telephone Trottoire calls Congolese listeners, plays them a phone message on a topical subject and invites them to record a comment and pass it on to a friend by entering their telephone number. The project builds on the traditional Congolese practice of ‘radio trottoire’ or ‘pavement radio’, the passing around of news and gossip on street corners to avoid state censorship. 90% of Congolese people in the UK are refugees and their mistrust of official media has made them a particularly isolated community. Yet Trottoire has proved very popular.

Official URL: http://yoha.co.uk/tantalum
Additional Information:

Commissioned by AV Festival 10 and produced in partnership with Discovery Museum. Isis Arts and The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. The work was Initially a FUSE Commissioned Residency for the 2nd Biennial 01SJ Global Festival of Art on the Edge 2008, ZERO1, CADRE Laboratory, California State University and the Lucas Artists Program, Montalvo Arts Center.

Departments, Centres and Research Units: Computing
Research Office > REF2014
Date range: 2008-11
Related URL: http://yoha.co.uk/socialtelephony, https://github.com/harwood-yoha/telephone_trottoire
Event Location: California State University
Item ID: 9283
Date Deposited: 25 Oct 2013 12:12
Last Modified: 19 Jun 2017 11:10



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