© Jamie Woodley
Tantalum Memorial is a series of telephony-based memorials to the people who have died as a result of the 'coltan wars in the Congo. The installation is constructed out of electromagnetic Strowger switches – the basis of the first automatic telephone exchange invented in 1888. The title of the work refers to the metal tantalum, an essential component of mobile phones.
The movements and sounds of the switches are triggered by the phone calls of London's Congolese community as they participate in Telephone Trottoire – a concurrent project also built by the artists in collaboration with the Congolese radio program Nostalgie Ya Mboka. The precisely poised movements and sounds of the switches create a sculptural presence for this otherwise intangible network of circulating conversations. Harwood, Wright, and Yokokoji weave together the ambiguities of globalisation, transnational migration and our addiction to constant communication.