KONGO ASTRONAUTS | TranspatialIncidents: Rewind and Fast Forward. 2010. 2020.

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The title’s play of words underscores the settings and moments activated by the trance-like performances in the film. The performer, Bebson Elemba, who uses the name “de la Rue” (of the Road) simultaneously draws the viewer’s mind along. De la Rue has brought us to his birthplace, Mbandaka, sited on the Congo River at the Equator. It was founded in 1883 by the explorer Henry Morgan Stanley, who named it Équateurville and imagined it would become the capital of his employer, King Leopold’s, privately owned colony, the Congo Free State.

The film’s performances and settings consider radical change. Here, things have fallen apart: we see a toppled statue of Stanley, and the wreck of a metal boat belonging to King Leopold’s company, “AIA,” marooned by the tides of history. Bebson stages a ring of fire in the unfinished palace of the dictator Mobutu, who also grew up in this town and reigned for 32 years. Its hisses and cracks exorcise the past. 

Incidents coalesce to create movement through time and space; sometimes incrementally, sometimes like a tsunami. In the face of being chained to such forces, Bebson’s ritual gestures throw out lifelines—sonic, visual, performative—that help anchor humans in their present, absorb the past, and reach towards a future that also implies a different space.  Bebson recycles fragments of Mobutu’s speeches, he cries out Earth’s problems, and he simultaneously sings a love song, recalling soundscapes that are being lost. Wrapped in magnetic tape, like a zombie trapped in a worldwide web, Bobson calls on spiritual forces to protect us and aid us in combat, while, directly overhead, above the geostationary Equator, all the World’s global communication satellites go round and round.