Call me here – Brazzaville/Kinshasa, Republic of the Congo/Demokratic Republic of the Congo

“Call Me Here” is situated in the double capital of Brazzaville and Kinshasa. In an urban agglomeration that lacks all infrastructures, from roads to electricity to water, and from schools to hospitals, the presence and effects of mobile phones is striking. As innumerous individual wall paintings tell, this new equipping of the city is not implemented from above. Rather, the logics of this quantum leap lie on the street; they can be told via two models. One is the economy of portioning. The telecom corporations scale down their marketing methods to the logics of the everyday: selling tiny pre-paid calling minutes in an otherwise inaccessible one-dollar-a-day economy and using the light cellular technology with its downsized antenna footprints. The method has been called a perfect marriage of marketing and technology and creates a tiptoe advantage in comparison to the kilometres of wires in public landlines. The other model is appropriation, and is on the side of the ordinary practitioner, who “does other things with the same thing and goes beyond the limits that the determinants of the object set on its utilization.” (De Certeau on what Charly Chaplin does with a walking stick (Certeau 1984, p.98)) Franchised pre-paid card selling stalls, in signal red or yellow, are given out for free, they are misused as calling points and finally, seeing the neighbor’s success, the brand’s colorful appearance is used to create an independent business. The combination of both logics, portioning and appropriation, has the multiplying effect of a chain reaction, literally spreading the color spots of mobile communication into the city. The phones substitute roads and banks up to the edges of the city where the domino effect slows down.
How to visualize the urban dimension of these individual acts? A section through the cities translates the local instances of calling points and sequence of reactions up into a strip. The multiple painted points of servicing the city are synthesized into a field, a colorscape. The dynamic of infrastructural fitting from below is best represented through the changing color intensity of the urban field: the primary tints of well-equipped centers fading into tropical pales where spending power is yet too low to support new communications.

Brazzaville, Republic of Congo/Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo Urban Research and Book
Client: Jan van Eyck Academie

Team: Sabine MĂĽller, Andreas Quednau, Kembale

The Brakin project was initiated by the Jan van Eyck Academie. It resulted in the making of a book published by Lars MĂĽller Publishers. The researchers Agency, Tina Clausmeyer, Wim Cuyvers, Dirk Pauwels, Sabine MĂĽller, Andreas Quednau and Kristien Van den Brande visited Brakin from 27 January to 17 February and from 7 May to 29 May 2005.



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