Simulen, funny electric control


The genesis of “Simulen“, a work by Congolese artist Jean Katambayi Mukendi exhibited at Pixelache 2011 festival in Helsinki, is very delicate. From the functional point of view it is a prototype for the automatic correction of electricity distribution trouble. The spark that triggered its creation is the absolute anarchy of the electrical infrastructure of the city where the artist lives, Lumbumbashi in Congo, which often experiences an annoyingly intermittent power system. Beyond any doubt this situation is a legacy of the chaotic and unregulated growth of the city’s infrastructure, but the object of the artist’s reflection is independent from the political denunciation. The problem is that people are exasperated by the constant brownouts and terminations of service and they often manually tamper with the electrical wires, sometimes causing more short circuits, overloading and dangerous tangles of wires. Simulen, instead, is impeccable in its appearance. Revealing the technologies inside, the device’s shell is made entirely of paper and reassuring paperboard cubes, tinted with soothing pastel colors. Its slender frame is similar to the polychromatic ancient totems, and the knobs and the buttons are typical of a robot. Always exhibited with Simulen are some precious drawings that illustrate the inner workings with a remarkable attention to detail, and they are so clear and well-made that they become an integral part of the work. This project, without being didactic, shows how artists can help the members of their communities, using very lo-fi but brilliant technology.

Chiara Ciociola