Tantalum Memorial was produced by Harwood, Wright and Yokokoji between 2006 and 2009. The work is a telephony-based memorial to the people who died as a result of the ‘coltan wars’ in the Congo from 1998 to the present. Coltan ore is mined for the metal tantalum – an essential component of mobile phones that is now more valuable than gold. The work is constructed from redundant electromechanical Strowger switches – the basis of the previous generation of telephone exchanges.
These switches are reanimated by tracking the phone calls from Telephone Trottoire – a social telephony network also designed by the artists for the Congolese radio programme Nostalgie Ya Mboka in London. Their precisely poised movements and sounds create a sculptural presence for this otherwise intangible network of circulating conversations and weave together the ambiguities of globalization, transnational migration and the impact of our addiction to constant communication.