Prelude To: When The Dust Unsettles (2022)
video installation with topographical model, and sound composition with recordings from Manono
Essay: ‘Sacrificial Energy‘ by Rose-Anne Gush
Prelude to: When The Dust Unsettles was developed as part of the artist collective On-Trade-Off which was founded in 2018. On-Trade-Off was sparked by the ‘discovery’ of a large lithium deposit in Manono, a mining area in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The mine is not only a place of historical extractivism but plays a key role for the promise of green energy. As Manono is currently transformed into a site of speculation and future exploitation, On-Trade-Off simultaneously unfolds as a structure for counter-narratives and alternative forms of collaboration and artistic creation.
By setting up a transversal dynamics that abolishes centres and exoticism, OTO aims to render obsolete the fallacious dichotomy between those who ‘hold the technological knowledge’ and those who should catch up’. Our process of art production puts the question of (free) tools, (fair) practices, and knowledge (that matter) at the core. We have the ambition to imagine and articulate critical, sensitive and speculative works of art that echo the incredible and tormented times we are living in.
In her research into the potential lithium extraction, Femke Herregraven focuses on Manono’s so-called ‘digital twin’. From a safe distance, and by using sophisticated remote sensing, computational modelling, and machine learning technologies, international mining companies like AVZ are today creating a digital model of their future mega-projects long before any ore is extracted from the ground.
Built from data and pixels, an ideal image of mines is created in hyperclean and futuristic renders. These so-called digital twins are used to simulate many simulations of the extraction process in order to convince politicians and investors of their potential profit and profit. The relationship between the physical impact, the pollution and toxicity of the landscape, the social and physical exploitation of the workers and the local population are hard to find. In this installation, Herregraven brings these split realities together in a model that combines the virtual with elements from Manono’s reality. In this way, she investigates how these digital twins create a purely virtual story that helps maintain the economic ideology of extraction, the global trade-off. Prelude to: When The Dust Unsettles is a prelude to an alternative digital twin of Manono that is developed as a collective project and that goes against the abstraction and monetization of the landscape and inhabitants.
On-Trade-Off current members: Alexis Destoop, Marjolijn Dijkman, Pélagie Gbaguidi, Femke Herregraven, Jean Katambayi Mukendi, Musasa, Alain Nsenga, Georges Senga, Pamela Tulizo, Maarten Vanden Eynde. Formerly involved: Sammy Baloji (2018-2019), Daddy Tshikaya (2018-2019), Oulimata Gueye (2020-2022), Lotte Arndt (2020-2022), Dorine Mokha (2020-2021†), Gulda El Magambo (2019-2022).
Installation view ‘On-Trade-Off: Charging Myths‘, FramerFramed, 2022
Installation view ‘The 12th Seoul Mediacity Bienniale’ curated by Rachael Rakes, 2023