Sergio Monje

Non-existent topographies of existent coltan mines

2018, 3D printed Minecraft maps

Democratic Republic of the Congo, North Kivu province, Rubaya mine. Children's hands extract fragments of coltan, a rare metallic mineral with superconducting properties, from narrow holes in the earth, rudimentarily excavated. Thousands of kilometers away, everywhere around the world, countless children's hands mine, by clicking, fictitious minerals in the popular mining game Minecraft, owned by Microsoft. These pieces, printed in 3D and modeled using Minecraft, represent the imagined topography, reconstructed from photographs, maps and testimonies, of various mines of coltan, gold, manganese, and other metals, located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. From these mines are extracted a large quantity of minerals, which, once exported to China, will be essential to manufacture the components of all kinds of electronic devices, central to an economy of information and communication - and which without them, applications like Minecraft cannot be run. The exact location of the mines is difficult to find out, even more so to obtain an authorization to visit them. Few journalists have managed to access it: the area is listed as "access not recommended" for outsiders. This condition of unrepresentability of the subject is revealing to us of the dynamics of power: of deterritorialized and reterritorialized violence, beyond the visible limits of the transparent factory, where, already out of frame and without spoiling its polished aestheticism, it has place the most lethal and inhumane exploitation. Exploitation that, although it permeates our gadgets to their very essence, is not visible to the naked eye: it is hidden behind the comfortably opaque design of a simple sheet of glass and aluminum, which frees from facing its material reality. As the then CEO of Apple Steve Jobs insisted when he introduced iCloud, "it just works".

Made using open source software Mineways and WorldPainter.