KONGO ASTRONAUTS | BIO & CV

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Kongo Astronauts is an artist collective founded by the Kinshasa-based duo Michel Ekeba and Eléonore Hellio. Their multi-media practice includes photography, film, sculpture, and performance, and engages with Kinshasa’s alternative culture network. Kongo Astronauts’ Afrofuturist prism projects a reality that surmounts both the postcolonial unpredictability of their urban setting and rural environments. At the same time, they beam a critical spotlight on the forces that have shaped this environment and continue to form it. In their images, we sense our own human fragility and catch our own reflections as we struggle with the crises of late capitalism and climate change.  

Kongo Astronauts’ images of travel—such as the astronaut in his golden suit, plastered with digital detritus made from minerals mined in the Congo, who stands in the belly of a cargo plane in their “After Schengen” series—“function as a platform for thinking through Earth’s decimation by an economic project rooted in the colonial project and amplified in the neoliberal era, ” as Dominique Malaquais points out in her recent “First Word” in African Arts. European states that bonded together under the Shengen Agreement imposed a unitary visa system through which they now control the entry of African visitors—much less immigrants—to the colonial “fatherlands” that once exercised authority over them.  

Kongo Astronauts describe their own practice as “crossing the vertiginous divide of worlds by responding with artist acts to the troubles and syncopations of the contemporary cyborg. A fluctuating collective, Kongo Astronauts is built on the confrontation of experiences and is an attempt to resist the psychic ghettos that cover multiple postcolonial realities. Kongo Astronauts manifests in the inter-zones of digital globalization, where past, future, and present collide with the politics of privacy and the realities of urban and rural life. A player in post-discipline, Kongo Astronauts’ cosmic apparitions and polysemous fictions engage us to take a multidimensional look at different forms of exile and survival tactics. Infinitely remixable, to the rhythm of crazy funkitude, Kongo Astronauts is an interstellar visual, sonic, textual, and space-time concept that reinvents itself every moment. Kongo Astronauts ‘space station’ is co-piloted by Eléonore Hellio and Michel Ekeba. Other thinkers and artists regularly participate in Kongo Astronauts’ spatio-temporal transmutations.”

Kongo Astronauts are interested in the creation of works that sometimes might be difficult to classify, works whose forms might be ephemeral or unstable, works which generate attitudes and processes, works which respond to a place or a context, given or constructed. The absence of fixed physical objects is integral to many projects carried out by Kongo Astronauts.

UPCOMING
Artist residence Cotonou Benin, Ministry of Art and Culture Benin, June 2023
Performance Kongo Astronauts Michel Ekeba, AAD/Leridon Collection Feb. 2023, South Africa
Artist talk new narratives and speculative imaginaries, online workshop led by Stacy Hardy, LOD musictheatre, Ghent, Belgium. December 10, 2022
METAMORPHOSIS–MUTATION, 6th edition of the International Biennale of digital art, (BIAN) organized by ELEKTRA, Arsenal Contemporary Art, Montreal, Canada Dec. 5 2022 – Feb. 5, 2023

SOLO EXHIBITIONS
2022 Congo Gravitational Waves // A Metadigital & Tantalean Tale. Solo exhibition, College of Visual Arts and Design Galleries, University of North Texas, Denton. June 14-Sept. 3, 2022

GROUP EXHIBITIONS
(Kongo Astronauts participants: Michel Ekeba, Eléonore Hellio, Bebson Elemba, Céline Banza, Amourabinto Lukoji, Daniel Toya)


2022 (N)Tonga: between future and dust, Brussels, Belgium. Sept. 23- Nov. 20, 2022
2022 Entrelacs/Interlaced, Cité International des arts, Paris. Exhibition, performances and roundtables. 3,4,5 June 2022. Exhibition open through July 13, 2022
2022 iN/Off, Biennale OFF Dakar, La OUAK Gallery, Ouakam Dakar May 19- June 21, 2022
2022 Transfigured Boundaries, curated by Hyash & Sofia Peypoch  Cineteca Nacional de Mexico Ciudad de México. April 29-May 5, 2022
2022 Kinshasa-(N)tonga: between future and dust. Academy of Fine Arts, Kinshasa, DRC
2021   Congo in Harlem, New York, USA
2020 
  Kinshasa Chroniques – Cité de l’architecture & du Patrimoine – Paris, France

2020   “disCONNECTED 2020” – Dresden, Germany
2019 
  Biennale de Lumumbashi – Lubumbashi, DRCongo

2019   Heterotopic planetarium – Kaserne Basel, Switzerland
2019   Kinshasa Chroniques – MIAM – Sète, France
2019   Système Kinshasa ! – B’ZZ pour l’Agence Française pour le Développement – Paris
2018    Traversantes – Le Tarmac – Paris, France 
2018
    Kinshasa 2050, Les Femmes d’abord ! – Institut Français – Kinshasa, DRCongo

2018    Festival MIDBO – Bogotá, Colombia
2017    Karachi Biennale  – Pakistan
2017    Kinshasa 2050 : La ville du Futur ? – Institut Français – Kinshasa, DRCongo
2017    Festival pour un temps sismique – Arts Hors-Format HEAR – Strasbourg, France
2015    Arte en Orbita – Quito, Ecuador
2015    Pan African Space Station – Cape Town
2013    Lowave  Film Festival – Johannesburg

PERFORMANCE
(Kongo Astronauts participants: Michel Ekeba, Eléonore Hellio, Amourabinto Lukoji

2022 Memory of Today, Memory of the Future, ASAP, Ariane Space Air Shuttle unveiling of collaborative work & Kongo Astronauts performance. 1:54, Christies, Paris. April 7-10, 2022
2019    Excerpts Postcolonial Dilemna #Track4 in PAIN BENI (Ornella Mamba) / Mise en scène Valentine Cohen – Brazzaville, Congo Republic
2019 
  Short film « After Shengen » Max Mo films / Laboratoire NEO

2019   Feature length film « Systeme K » by Renaud Barret
2018   Clip « Niama Na Yo » Album Polaroïd Experience – YOUSSOUPHA
2018   Short Film « Zombies » by BALOJI
2017   Repatriation of the White Cube IHA/CATPC – Lusanga DRC
2017   CFAO Inauguration – TEK Agency – Kinshasa DRC
2017   Photographic research by Belgian photographer Colin Delfosse
2016  BALOJI Concert – JAZZKIF Festival – Kinshasa DRC
2015  Clip “Capture” for the EP “64 Bits and Malachite” by BALOJI
2015   Short film, « How to become Kongo Astronauts » de Borut Bučinel
2015   Biennale Yango (OFF) – Urban performance series – Kinshasa, CRC
2015   Clip « From Kinshasa to the moon » BONGWANA STARS (?)
2014   Series of urban performances in the city of  Kinshasa, DRC
2013   Flight Box Night Orange, Optimum Production – Kinshasa, DRC

FILMOGRAPHY
(Kongo Astronauts participants: Eléonore Hellio, Michel Ekeba, Bebson Elemba, Céline Banza)

Postcolonial Dilemma Track #5 (in the process of) 2021
TranspatialIncidents, 2010. 2020. Duration: 11”28’’

Postcolonial Dilemna #Track4 (Remix mix) within the multidimentionnal world of Bebson Elemba. Duration: 14’08’’ – 2019
La Predic(a)tion in collaboration with Céline Banza, 2018. Duration: 21’51’’
Postcolonial Dilemna #Track4 (Stay tuned). Duration:  8’38’’ – 2017
Postcolonial Dilemna #Track0 (unedited). Duration: 7’30’’ – 2015
Postcolonial Dilemna #Track3 (Unended). Duration: 6’31’’ – 2014Z
Postcolonial Dilemna #Track2

Postcolonial Dilemna #Track1 (Redux)

PUBLICATIONS

Eléonore Hellio. “GHeTTo GeT In-GrOw Up!” OtherNetwork/e-flux Architecture, October 26, 2022
Rob La Frenais & Ewen Chadronnet. Eds. Space Without Rockets. UV Éditions, 2022
Gabriella Nugent. Colonial Legacies: Contemporary Lens-Based Art and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Leuven University Press in the Fall/Winter 2021
Espace (s) no. 20. Mythologies Individuels. Observatoiredel’espace. 2020. p32.
Kinshasa Chroniques. Les editions de l’oeil, Paris. 27 February, 2019