“At the time the building was designed, there was still a terrible lack of housing, particularly for the emerging bourgeoisie. (…) Then, with the sudden oversupply and the end of the oil era, the market collapsed. The company responsible for Termitera was forced to lower prices.
Many of the elevators don’t work. The ones that work have armed guards at the door and only serve the upper bourgeoisie. The underground galleries, where garages and workshops, gyms and supermarkets should have been installed, were occupied by all sorts of outcasts and disinherited people: junkies, little girls, petty thieves with no future, war maimed, sorcerers. They live there, like rats, in the dark.”
The fascinating description of Termitera, the futuristic skyscraper that serves as the backdrop for a character in Barroco Tropical, a literary work by José Eduardo Agualusa, takes us to the image of a dystopian Luanda, in the year 2020. the symbol of the social, economic and even physical and urban contradictions of Angolan society. There are several Termiteiras spread across Luanda, and Kimba Sec is one of them.
Built 52 years ago, in a period of expansion of the city and in the context of the utopia of Luanda the modern city, the Kimba Sec² building and better known by the post-colonial name, Treme-Treme was left unfinished and ended up being transformed into a shelter for all the type of city activities. Listed as one of the city’s properties in a state of degradation and risk of collapse, in 2018, the more than 250 families who lived there were evicted from the building and relocated in other places, leaving it empty, between the risk of collapse and return. to be busy.
It is in this context that the collective of artists presented here makes a temporary occupation of the building, developing a set of works that are born from this encounter with the rubble and the void, resulting in different and diverse works in their approach, but with common traits – all of them are born from a process of immersion in memory, in the remnants of experiences and activities that unfolded over the years. The quaver, contemporary ruin and free territory becomes an archaeological site. Artists work as archaeologists, collectors of material and immaterial fragments, tools are observation, debris, remnants of a very present past.
The melancholy silence and absence assume themselves as protagonists of a narrative that disarticulates objects from their context of objects of the past, reconfiguring them and transforming them into artefacts of the present.
Kimba Sec emerges as a universe very close to what Faucult defined as heterotopia: a discursive space that exists in contradiction with the established order; an “other space”, a world within worlds, disturbing, intense, incompatible and contradictory. A space that simultaneously mirrors and repels what is outside, but which functions as a shadow, object of the questions and concerns of the present.
The relationship between artistic production and architectural space under construction or in ruins in cities is not a new experience, and has permeated a series of experimental projects. If, on the one hand, the beauty and mystery of absence, architecture and space as testimonies of the passage of time refer us to existential reflections such as the awareness of our fragility as humans, degradation and ephemerality; on the other hand, the existence of this place, its geographical location (in the center of the city), reveals tensions and problems intrinsic to contemporaneity, such as the unequal production of space, concentration of capital, gentrification and real estate speculation.
The exhibition Kimba Sec: phantom modernity proposes a reflection on experimentation processes and on the potential of the intangible aspects of architecture and lived space – on the “spatial-temporal overlaps that carry and infuse places, objects and situations with a cultural memory”³ – and that are articulated in different forms, languages and aesthetics. As a whole, the works go beyond the simple criticism of the abandoned structure, and represent the latent potential of spaces such as the trem-treme. Both as places to question, articulate and reflect on various themes/aspects of contemporaneity – on the space-time in which we live and in which the erosion of our lives and our history occurs, which scratches and gnaws at us, as well as as places open possibilities, imagination and the formulation of new poetics – poetics of abandonment.
¹ Bartolomeu Falcato is one of the main characters of Barroco Tropical, by José Eduardo Agualusa, 2009
² Kimba sec the original name of the Treme-treme building, is from a populous region with the same name, Kimba, in the province of Katanga (Democratic Republic of Congo). The space is also named after the former prime minister, Evariste Kimba, who died in 1966.
³ Marta Jecu, in Subtle-Construction, 2012