89plus Residency Program Focus on Africa

The 2016 edition of the 89plus residency at the Google Cultural Institute was one of the most successful programs to date.

By 89plus

89plus, Another Africa, Google Lab

89plus Residency at Google Cultural Institute, From the collection of: 89plus
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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.

89plus Accra workshop, 2015-08-01, From the collection of: 89plus
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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.

Photogammetry modelling and virtual rendering of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Emnet Woubishet, From the collection of: 89plus
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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.

Untitled, Elisabeth Efua Sutherland, From the collection of: 89plus
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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.

Emnet Woubishet presenting on 'Editable Virtual Environments' at the Google Cultural Institute's Lab, 2016, From the collection of: 89plus
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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.

Sketch drawing of a conceptual MIDI bow exploring vibration therapy (2016-08) by Neo Mahlasela89plus

Re-inventing The Musical Bow

Neo Mahlasela's experimental instrument originates from a hunting bow, and has some significance as a therapeutic tool. Returning to the archive of ancient instruments, it looks at how classic string instruments and the objects themselves, can be reintroducing to the digital world while strategically reinforcing the sonic principles and psychophysiological benefits, that come with interacting with such a basic, but versatile apparatus.

Neo Mahlasela's sketch for a conceptual MIDI bow, Neo Mahlasela, 2016-08, From the collection of: 89plus
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Neo Mahlasela presenting at the Google Cultural Institute's Lab, Neo Mahlasela, 2016, From the collection of: 89plus
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The streets of Merkato, a marketplace district in Addis Ababa (2016) by Emnet Woubishet89plus

Imagine if Addis Ababa was available in ‘Graffiti Mode’

Emnet Woubishet visualises what a city might look like if it was presented as a blank canvas to paint on. Believing that soft attributes like cultural habits, regional customs, skills and materials can be gathered from local inhabitants, Emnet takes inspiration from the outsider art form graffiti and the virtual presence of urban spaces, as a useful model to gather data. Through virtual reality and a digital palette, she explores how users could customise and edit spaces through visualizing activities, painting and sharing their ideal neighbourhoods to meaningfully contribute towards the urban design process.

Storyboarding the interface design, Emnet Woubishet, 2016, From the collection of: 89plus
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User interface prototyping to design tools that build interest and elicit community engagement, Emnet Woubishet, 2016, From the collection of: 89plus
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Immersive experience and user interface prototype for urban design, Emnet Woubishet, 2016, From the collection of: 89plus
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Mandala 3, from Anansi's Wife//Akua's Daughter 2016 by Elisabeth Efua Sutherland89plus


Elisabeth Efua Sutherland performance piece explores issues of feminism and identity, narrative and history, by crafting the origin story of ‘Aso', the wife of the famous Akan trickster 'Anansi'. A piece of modern myth-making, AW//AD is an experiment in merging traditional storytelling, sound, movement and visual elements into a multimedia landscape. In the performance, a solo storyteller rewrites the figure of 'Aso' as the central figure of the 'Anansi' folktales. AW//AD looks at performance and storytelling as means of psychotherapy: a way to fill the lacunae in terms of the experience of a female Ghanaian creator figure; and as a way to craft even newer ways of seeing and reacting to the world.

Head reality capture, Elisabeth Efua Sutherland, From the collection of: 89plus
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Guest viewing the augmented reality landscape of Elisabeth Efua Sutherland's performance ANANSI’S WIFE//AKUA’S DAUGHTER using Adinkra symbols., Elisabeth Efua Sutherland, 2016-12-15, From the collection of: 89plus
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Elisabeth Efua Sutherland's performs ANANSI’S WIFE//AKUA’S DAUGHTER, Elisabeth Efua Sutherland, 2016-12-15, From the collection of: 89plus
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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 .

From left to right, Freya Murray, Julie Boukobza, Neo Mahlasela, and Emnet Woubishet, 2016-12-15, From the collection of: 89plus
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Credits: Story

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.

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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.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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