Graham Harwood

Energetics and Informatics: the 7th ADA Symposium, Whanganui, December 10-12 2010

The 7th ADA Network Symposium examines the relationship between energy and information in media arts. We ask how sustainable is the technology that supports media art? What new forms of practice are developing at the intersection of energy conservation and production, technology, and art? And how can we balance a global arts practice with the ethical complexities of global air travel, and the social complexities of remote participation?

These issues will be explored through keynote presentations, discussions, artist presentations, workshops, a screening programme and two exhibitions.

The symposium features keynote presentations by internationally renowned sound and media arts theorist Douglas Kahn, and Australian artists Joyce Hinterding and David Haines, and a remote conversation with London-based media artist Graham Harwood, creator of the Coal Fired Computer.

A wide range of artists and researchers from Whanganui and around New Zealand will present current projects in art and sustainable energy, in conference sessions including Sustainable Media (Art), Energy Networks, and Social Energy.

Friday December 10 is dedicated to a day long workshop with American artist John Hopkins that will explore Whanganui and its river, via Waka. This is a parallel event organised by The Green Bench, with support from Creative Communities.

An outdoor screening programme on the exterior of the  Sargeant Gallery on Saturday December 11, curated by Sophie Jerram, Julian Priest and Ana Terry, includes films by artists such as Superflex, Hans Uber Morgen, Brit Bunkley, Amelia Hitchcock, Erin Coates, Karen Curley and Don Hunter.

In association with ADA, The Sargeant Gallery presents ‘Ozinal’ 2010 (a radio station from the sun) by Joyce Hinterding and David Haines, courtesy of the Artists and Breenspace, opening December 10 at 5:30.

And the Green Bench Gallery will be showing ‘Burn’, an exhibition of work about Oil, curated by Julian Priest,  Sophie Klerk, and Sophie Jerram. This opens  on December 3 at 5:30, and features works by artists including Superflex, Hans Uber Morgen, Felicity Priest, and the Whanganui Rock and Lapidary Club

The ADA Network Trust invites artists, researchers, curators, art enthusiasts, energy researchers, and all those interested in energy, information, and media art from Whanganui and around New Zealand to participate.

Energetics and Informatics takes place December 10-12, at the War Memorial Conference Centre, Watt St, Whanganui

Cost: registration is $30, this includes  symposium, workshop, outdoor screening, exhibitions and the ‘ADA free lunch.’

For registration and more information see

Energetics and Informatics is supported by Creative New Zealand, Whanganui District Council, Hikurangi Foundation,  Green Bench Ltd, UCOL, Sarjeant Gallery, Whanganui School of Design, Quay School of the Arts, Art Crew Ltd, Ana Terry Design, Whanganui Green Bikes and The Physics Room.

Douglas Kahn’s keynote is part of a distributed series of talks and discussions occurring throughout New Zealand in December 2010. Parts two and three will occur in Christchurch and Auckland respectively. The distributed masterclass is generously supported by Creative New Zealand, The Physics Room and the Gus Fisher Gallery.

via Symposium Press Page.

Tantalum Memorial: an analogue response to Congo’s coltan war

A couple of years ago I went to the Congo, to an isolated, uneasy spot called Gabolite on the Ubangi River, hundreds of miles away from any regular electricty supply, a place patrolled by bored, nervous members of the United Nations task force MONUC. For all its isolation, Gabolite astonisingly boasts one of the longest runways in Africa; it was built by Western-supported kleptocrat dictator Mobutu Sese Seko so that Concorde could fly supplies of champagne to his nearby palace.

The palace is deserted now. The gold taps went first, apparently. Looted, swimming pools dry, the bush is slowly reclaiming it. I was there to meet child soldiers whom an NGO was trying, with mixed success, to reintegrate back into the society they’d been dragged away from to be forced to become killers. It’s quite horrifying to look into the eyes of a child who has almost certainly murdered and raped, or been raped.

Today I was just posting a listing for transmediale.09 on the main site when I saw that one of the artworks listed for this year’s Award is UK artists’ Graham Harwood, Richard Wright, and Matsuko Yokokoji’s Tantalum Memorial, a work that was exhibited at last year’s Manifesta 7.

Harwood, Wright and Yokokoji were formerly associated with the digital media collective Mongrel. Tantalum Memorial grew out of a piece of work Mongrel did called Telephone Trottoir. Telephone Trottoir recreated the informal “pavement radio” of Central Africa – the phone calls by which news is passed in opressive states – by creating an audio messaging network for Congolese regugees in London.

Tantalum Memorial is an old-style telephone exchange built from Strowger telephone switches to animate the Telephone Trottoir system, dialing up numbers provided by the network of Congolese refugees as the diaspora reconnects with itself, using a technology from before the high tech era of modern digital telephony. It is an analogue response to a largely ignored horror created by our digital era, a tiny act of marking an unmarked holocaust.

Though the wars in the Congo of the last 12 years are often portrayed in the media as tribal, arising originally from the spillover from the Hutu and Tutsi conflicts of Burundi and Rwanda, they are more honestly described as being fuelled by the profits from looted minerals. In mineral terms, Central Africa is one of the very richest parts of the world, though none of that wealth was evident among the huts of Gabolite.

One mineral in particular has proved lethal to the area: coltan is the colloquial African name for columbite tantalite. Coltan is used to make high-performance capacitors, the sort needed to produce chips for video game consoles, laptops, digital cameras and mobile phones.

The Congo has the world’s largest coltan reserves. These have been systematically fought over by the new kleptocrats, the warlords, and exported clandestinely via neighbouring countries, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda. The boom in mobile phone sales coincided precisely with the eruption of what has been the world’s bloodiest conflict since WW2. Around 4 million have died so far in the violence and its aftermath. Disease and ongoing violence means that Congolese are still dying at a rate of 45,000 a month. 

We are technophiles; Tantalum Memorial is a remarkable reminder of the cost of technophilia.



Tantalum Memorial by Graham Harwood, Richard Wright, and Matsuko Yokokoji, Manifesta 7 2008 courtesy of Paul Keller

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