Past, present and future collide in Kongo Astronauts’ first-ever solo show at UNT

Tuesday, May 24, 2022 - 09:37

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DENTON (UNT), Texas — This summer, the University of North Texas College of Visual Arts and Design Galleries will present the first-ever solo show of Kongo Astronauts, an artist collective based in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The exhibition, titled Congo Gravitational Waves // A Metadigital & Tantalean Tale, opens June 14 and will run through Sept. 3. The selected works highlight what the artists describe as “inter-zones of digital globalization, where past, present and future collide with the politics of privacy and the realities of urban and rural life.”

Founded in 2013 by Michel Ekeba and Eléonore Hellio, Kongo Astronauts works across disciplines, media, political borders, restrictive artistic and cultural boundaries, and temporal thresholds to reimagine shared futures and elicit thoughts of refusal and renewal. The artists’ performative responses to the postcolonial environment in the Democratic Republic of the Congo result in work that can be difficult to categorize. Kongo Astronauts’ creative forms are often ephemeral or unstable, and this absence of fixed physical objects is integral to many projects carried out by the artist collective.

“It’s an incredible opportunity to have the Kongo Astronauts' only solo exhibition happen right here at UNT," said College of Visual Arts and Design Dean Karen Hutzel, professor of art education. "The oft-stereotyped continent of Africa is physically far from Denton, Texas, and yet intertwined in our humanity, inequity and fragility. This work challenges stereotypes while bringing attention to our commonalities, such as the impact of technological advancements and climate change. I hope all will find their own interpretations in the exhibit while perhaps coming to understand the reflection of this work as inherently African.”

The exhibition features a short film, a series of large-scale photographic prints and one of the astrosuits Ekeba wears when he performs in the streets of Kinshasa and beyond. The After Schengen photographic series dominates the gallery’s footprint and depicts a spacewalker in a golden suit plastered with electronic circuits and other digital debris aboard an inoperable jet. The series title evokes the Schengen Treaty of 1985, which led to the establishment of unrestricted cross-national movement of European Union citizens within its borders and served to further complicate international travel for citizens of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other African nations.

“Kongo Astronauts gives life to new visual elements and linguistic concepts that are fantastical in their presentation while remaining grounded in the reality of life in Kinshasa,” guest curator Rachel Kabukala said.

Although Kongo Astronauts has staged performances and appeared in group shows around the globe, Congo Gravitational Waves // A Metadigital & Tantalean Tale offers audiences in North Texas the unique opportunity to experience its work within the context of an expansive solo exhibition.

Congo Gravitational Waves // A Metadigital & Tantalean Tale

When: June 14 – Sept. 3

Where: CVAD Gallery in Room 160 of the UNT Art Building, 1201 W. Mulberry St., Denton

Gallery Hours: Noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday – Saturdays

To Attend: Exhibit is free and open to the public

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