The Subterranean Imprint Archive is a co-created research project.

It examines Africa’s role in an historical event that changed the future of humanity: the nuclear bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima, and Nagasaki in 1945. The uranium used to make these bombs was extracted from Shinkolobwe mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The central role played by the DRC, along with exploitative mining and its consequences for local populations, have been largely hidden from official histories of the bomb. By extending their research to South Africa, the Lo-Def Film Factory shows that, from the 19th century onwards, exploitation and mapping of the subsoil became increasingly intensive as new,more efficient methods of extraction developed. Inspired by Katsuhiro Otomo's Japanese graphic novel and film Akira (1988), Lo-Def Film Factory juxtaposes the futuristic phenomena of VR with archival research.

This project seeks to situate the viewer in a counter-archive which traces the legacy of technopolitics in Central and Southern Africa. Drawing on research surrounding nuclearity in Africa from the Atomic Age to the present, it transports the visitor from the immaterial data bank of the cloud down into digital infrastructures embedded in the soil to unearth the contested histories of collaborative discovery and uneven distribution.

The work asks the questions: Is there an alternative way to determine the value of technological objects other than by their ‘use value’? How have Western dominant techno-optimistic narratives obscured and overshadowed alternate narratives of lived experience? And What is the true cost of progress?
We envision an alternative present in which notions of progress are radically reimagined to incorporate the violent histories and extractive processes in which our technologies are complicit.

This website was produced while in residence. What Stays – Archiving Care is a year-long project in cooperation with transmediale festival, The JUNGE AKADEMIE of the Academy of Arts, and the Goethe-Institut Slovakia

Produced by Electric South (South Africa) and Le Lieu Unique (France)

Created by Lo-Def Film Factory (Francois Knoetze and Amy Louise Wilson)

Research by Joe-Yves Salankang Sa-Ngol

Lead Developer Kyle Marais

Commissioned by Oulimata Gueye for Le Lieu Unique

Sound by Joshua Chiundiza

Additional collage art by Duduetsang Lamola (blkbanaana)

Additional video art by Natalie Paneng

Additional sound by Caydon van Eck

Website design consultant by Francis Burger 

Performances by Gomez Bakwene, Peacemore Patsika, Victor Jakara, Nicole Goto, Phedre N’goua, Billy Edward Langa Voice-over by Paurisia Muhigirwa, Phedre N’goua

Performance workshops by
Richard September, Buhle Ngaba

Special thanks to Tshisimani Centre for Activist Education, Congolese Civil Society of South Africa, Oulimata Gueye, Alex Sutherland, Ingrid Kopp, Steven Markovitz, Caitlin Robinson, Antoinette Engel, Kirstin Lee Grey, Taryn Joffe, Rick Treweek

About the Creators

Based in South Africa, the Lo-Def Film Factory’s work involves archival research, dramaturgy, and visual strategies associated with video art, collage, sculptural installation and new media, to explore and create space for collaborative and experimental community storytelling. The Lo-Def Film Factory was created by artist duo Francois Knoetze and Amy Louise Wilson. It began as a mobile, amateur filmmaking workshop which co-created and screened experimental video by and for underrepresented communities. Since then, the duo’s practice has embraced elements both formal, like installations and videos – and theoretical, like workshops. Their work is particularly focused on working with young people to make participatory research-creation projects, often using found/discarded materials – exploring the connection between primary materials and social/geopolitical issues.

Francois is a sculptor, performance and video artist, who creates narrative portraits of the uncertainty in the nervous system of a global digital machine at the brink of collapse, critically examining the patterns of exploitation of both people and raw materials engrained in the production of technologies. Amy is a writer and performer interested in traditional South African performance practices as a methodology for research and experimentation. The duo work with digital technologies in a DIY practice which emphasizes co-creation and embraces mistake-making. 

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