Artists: Sinzo Aanza, Jasmina Al-Qaisi, Falonne Mambu, Nada Tshibwabwa, Ralf Wendt and Elsa Westreicher
Three billboards at the Strausberger Platz underground station: June 30 – July 20, 2023
Sound piece accessible on a phone number: June 30 – July 20, 2023
Performances: July 8 and 14, 2023, at 4pm
Artists Talk: July 8, 2023, at 3pm (Meeting point at Eiscafé il Viale)
Credits: Elsa Westreicher; Costumes and performances: Falonne Mambu & Nada Tshibwabwa
Chargé is the takeover of Strausberger Platz by the artists Sinzo Aanza, Jasmina Al-Qaisi, Falonne Mambu, Nada Tshibwabwa, Ralf Wendt and Elsa Westreicher, both above and below ground through performance, sound, and posters on the station’s tunnel walls. Consisting of six artists living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Germany, the group interprets the square as a duplication of the Congo-Cosmogram – a symbol depicting and summarizing the relationships between visible and invisible worlds.
With its roundabout and its central fountain decorated in geometric copper shapes, the artists see the architecture of Strausberger Platz as an involuntary parallel to the copper, coltan and cobalt mines in the Congo.
On two days, Falonne Mambu and Nada Tshibwabwa will move as performers in and around Strausberger Platz, disrupting the bustle of the city with their presence. They will wear costumes made of various mobile phone parts and electric cables, embodying the material substrates sourced from mines in the Congo, sometimes under catastrophic conditions: copper, coltan, and cobalt – central components of our western systems of communication and mobility. Electric vehicles powered to drive around the square by batteries made of precisely those metals are becoming more and more common in Berlin traffic, thus making Strausberger Platz into a representative site for fictions and parallels between two geographically distant places and realities, which are nevertheless the locations where the artists involved live and work: Kinshasa and Berlin.
The performances will be accompanied by a sound work that can be reached and listened to via phone call. A telephone number listed on the posters on the underground station tunnel walls puts passers-by who call on hold, listening to a recording that plays the sound piece on a loop. The work is based on the novel Généalogie d’une banalité (Genealogy of a Banality) by the Congolese author Sinzo Aanza, which tells the story of a community in Lubumbashi, the capital of Haut-Katanga, a region rich in raw materials. The residents of the “Bronx” start digging up the soil of their properties in hopes of finding copper. The sound work combines the realities of Strausberger Platz with those of metal mining in the Congo and the buzz of ubiquitous data packages, connecting them in new ways via their auditory dimensions. The sound piece also translates fragments from Sinzo Aanza’s book into English and German for the first time – previously, it was only published in French.
The posters are the results of a collaboration between Congolese sign painters and the graphic designer Elsa Westreicher, who lives in Berlin and Kinshasa. They reflect the interweaving of post-colonial typeface design.
Sinzo Aanza (*1990, Goma, DR Congo) lives and works in Kinshasa, D. R. Congo. He is an artist, playwright, and author. He published several texts and short stories in different magazines, i.e. Gierik & NVT (Belgium) and The Chimurenga Chronic (South Africa) before publishing his first novel Généalogie d’une banalité (Genealogy of a Banality) in 2015. In 2017, Sinzo Aanza started the installation Projet d’attentat contre l’image? (Attack Project Against the Image?) during a residency at WIELS, Contemporary Art Centre (Brussels). He publishes theatre pieces, among them Histoire générale des murs (General History of Walls) and Le jour du massacre (Day of the Massacre), which were staged in Kinshasa.
Jasmina Al-Qaisi is a poet who often makes waves in free, independent, temporary, mobile and public radio. Al-Qaisi also performs in other formats: as a walking scientist, a bird watcher-watcher, emergency musical support, self-entitled-self-entitlement office, or as an emotional technician. Since 2017, Al-Qaisi’s artistic practice has taken various forms: she develops concepts, writes, cooks, thinks, and talks about different forms of togetherness. As an art writer, she uses poetic and alternative formats to provide critiques and tell stories together with others. She has developed various audio works together with the artist Ralf Wendt.
Falonne Mambu (*1991, Matadi, DR Congo) is a multidisciplinary artist who addresses questions of femininity, violence against women, and feminist activism by centering the body, its knowledge and experiences, as well as resilience and resistance. Mambu studied at the Académie des Beaux-Arts Kinshasa. Her work has been shown at Institut Français (Kinshasa, 2022; Goma, 2021; Bukavu, 2021); Galerie Saga (Lille, Frankreich, 2021); Musée de l’Échangeur (Kinshasa, DR Kongo, 2019); Exposition Centre Culturel Boboto (Kinshasa, DR Kongo, 2019); and Centre Wallonie-Bruxelles (Kinshasa, DR Kongo, 2019). She was an artist in residence at the Kin Art Studio (Kinshasa, DR Kongo 2018), at the Festival de la Rue d’Assinie (Assouindé, Ivory Coast, 2018) and at Ndaku Ya La Vie est Belle (2010).
Nada Tshibwabwa (*1990, Lubumbashi, DR Congo) is a multidisciplinary artist and musician. His practice is concerned with the violence inherent to contemporary power dynamics. Among others, he thematises how environmental issues are interwoven with his own biography and attempts to pose counternarratives. His musical career encompasses collaborations as the duo Sinda Nada (2008–), the collective Timbela Batimbela Yo, Lexxus Legal etc. As his music got more and more connected to the visual arts, he participated in the Faire-Part project (2016), KINACT–Rencontres Internationales des Performeurs (since 2016), until he created a meeting place to engage with environmental questions creatively on Plateau Bateke, outside of Kinshasa, in 2020. In 2022 he founded Mwano Studio. Exhibitions include Megalopolis: Voices from Kinshasa (2018/19, GRASSI Museum, Leipzig); The Long Term you Cannot Afford. On the Distribution of the Toxic (2019, S A V V Y Contemporary, Berlin); Fulu-Act: Du Mouvement, Naît Le Regard (2021, BOZAR, Brussels); and Müll [Trash] (2022, Kunstverein Leipzig). Between 2018 and 2022 Nada Tshibwabwa was part of the art space Ndaku Ya La Vie Est Belle; in 2022 he was artist in residence at the Musée Royal de l’Afrique Centrale in Tervuren, Belgium.
Ralf Wendt works with time-based and literary art forms to examine the deconstruction of both human and animal languages, questioning the order of things. Since the mid-1990s, he has addressed a poetics of Suprasegmentalia, often with the group Wolf In the Winter, in performances, films and works for radio. Connecting performance art with the medium of radio led Wendt from galleries and festivals to the free radio landscape. Wendt brings different forms of artistic expression together that investigate utopian/dystopian disruptions in society. He passes on his knowledge and experience as a teacher at different universities, art schools, and media training centres.
Elsa Westreicher (*1989, Kinshasa, DR Congo) lives and works as a freelance graphic designer in Berlin and Kinshasa. She studied at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and at the New School for Social Research on a DAAD scholarship. From 2014 to 2020, she was an active part of S A V V Y Contemporary – The Laboratory of Form-Ideas, where she initiated a design department and headed the project Spinning Triangles: Ignition of a School of Design (2019). In 2020/21 she created the projects SPAM: A Radio Program of Undesired-Desired Messages and Tango: On the (Dis-)Integration of Times together with Orakle Ngoy. She is currently deepening her research on questions of coloniality in design practices. Outside of her research and curatorial work, she develops strategies for communication and/or visual appearances. Her most recent collaborators include the ZKM Karlsruhe (2023), the Berlin Artistic Research Grant Programme (2023), the Laboratoire Kontempo (2022), the Bauhaus Kooperation (2020) and the Lagos Biennale (2019).
Credits: Silke Briel
Art direction: Collaboration between Sinzo Aanza, Jasmina Al-Qaisi, Falonne Mambu, Nada Tshibwabwa, Ralf Wendt and Elsa Westreicher
Costumes and performance: Falonne Mambu and Nada Tshibwabwa
Graphic design: Elsa Westreicher with Fabien Kambule, Ducapel Mbala and Patrick Sangu-Zinga
Photography: Elie Mbansing
Text: Sinzo Aanza, Généalogie d'une banalité; fragments translated to English and German by the team
Voices: David Ilunga reading in French (recorded at Studio Mwano by Wolo Pascal Simelo and Nada Tshibwabwa), Rachel Nyangbome reading in English (recorded at Studio 2RS by Arnaud Ahumbi and Tony Membele), Ralf Wendt and Jasmina Al-Qaisi reading in German
Audio composition: Jasmina Al-Qaisi and Ralf Wendt
Music: Nada Tshibwabwa
City recordings: Falonne Mambu
Discussions: Falonne Mambu, Nada Tshibwabwa and Vicko Tengwa
Online quotes: Ralf Wendt
Technical support: vionetworks.de
Thank you: L’or Kitoko, Spiritus Bongonda and Koko Byamungu Kabamba
Art in the Underground 2022/23: