The 2016 edition of the 89plus residency at the Google Cultural Institute was one of the most successful programs to date.
Established in 2014, 89plus has brought young international creative practitioners to France, to work in the unique setting of the institute's lab where they can conduct research, realise new work and meet with key artists, technologists and curators.
This session, which ran from October to December 2016, invited practitioners from three African countries. Elisabeth Efua Sutherland (Ghana), Neo Mahlasela (South Africa,) and Emnet Woubishet (Ethiopia) were each selected following their participation in workshops held in Accra, Johannesburg and Addis Ababa, during co-curators Hans Ulrich Obrist and Simon Castets' two-week 89plus research trip in 2015.
The strength of this edition came from the variety, and calibre of the participants projects. Neo, a sound artist, proposed to digitally recreate a traditional instrument that has soothing powers. Emnet, an architect, prototyped a virtual painting tool to customise public places for urban environments. Elisabeth, a performance artist, conceived a performance based on an ancient Akan mythological character from Ghana involving virtual reality, sculptures, dance and sound.
Leading up to the residency, the initial group of seven candidates joined a mentorship program facilitated by Missla Libsekal, Another Africa founder and editor, with local partners, Nubuke Foundation in Accra, Keleketla! Library in Johannesburg and faculty from Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia's capital city. During this two-month period, project ideas were refined, and plans to maximise their time in Paris, week by week, were laid.
Much like Billy Klüver's artist and engineer collaboration from the 1960s, Experiments in Art And Techonology, which sought to close the gap between the individual and technological change, a significant transition during this residency, was the Google Lab's involvement in the process. From day one, head engineers provided critical feedback influencing the selected projects. Then for the first time, Google hired a part-time engineer to help each artist develop their project on a weekly basis. Conversations between artists and engineers were fluid, uninterrupted and consistent. Both fields learned from each other, and so the three projects were largely accomplished.
At the conclusion of the residency program, the Google Lab hosted an intimate evening of presentations and performance. Opening the occasion, Freya Murray from the Google Cultural Institute, together with Julie Boukobza, 89plus director of France and co-curator of residencies welcomed curators, writers and the Google team to experience Neo's digital bow, Emnet's virtual reality and painting tool, and Elisabeth live and 3D multimedia performance .
This edition of the 89plus residency was initiated by 89plus co-curators Simon Castets and Hans Ulrich Obrist, in collaboration with publishing platform Another Africa, and its founder, Missla Libsekal. It followed their ongoing collaboration and 2-week research trip to Ghana, South Africa and Ethiopia in 2015.
This project was made possible with the support of Google Cultural Institute.
With thanks to the following individuals and institutions for their support:
The Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction and City Development (EiABC), Julie Boukobza, Pierre Caessa, Katherine Campbell, Berhanu Ashagrie Deribew, Katherine Dionysius, Charlotte Fechoz, Nubuke Foundation, Laurent Gaveau, Orion Lemma Hailemichael, Damien Henry, Rangoato Hlasane, Keleketla! Library, Neo Mahlasela, Malose Malahlela, Lebogang Mashifane, Nonkululeko Mthunzi, Freya Murray, Papa Oppong, Kofi Setordji, Jonathan Tanant, Brook Teklehaimanot, Odile Tevie, Alle School of Fine Arts & Design University, Addis Ababa University, Elisabeth Efua Sutherland and Emnet Woubishet.