Kamituga | Digital Gold

Smartphones, tablets and computers do not work without the rare minerals used in their components and gold is one of these precious minerals. Those devices make use of gold as a chemically stable and exceptional conductor for their electronic circuits. About 7% of global gold is used for these technological purposes. 
Around 80% of the global labor force involved in gold mining is occupied in so-called artisanal or small-scale mining activities. That is a total of 45 million workers (30% women, 70% men) across 60 countries, mainly in the Southern hemisphere. Despite their significant contributions to major global mineral supply chains, artisanal and small-scale miners are some of the world’s most marginalized workers and their contribution to the global economy garners little attention. Artisanal mining activity typically takes place in rural areas without access to proper health infrastructure and lack of government support, such as Kamituga in Eastern Congo (DRC). 
It is estimated that at least 134 million people work in related industries that support artisanal and small-scale mining activities, including small-scale processing, buying and selling, but also restaurants and bars, shops, equipment, and transport facilities.

Kamituga | Digital Gold is a cooperation between the Immersive Arts Space and the Department of Geography, University of Zurich.

Planet Digital

 Overview of a complete 3D model of an artisanal gold mine in Kamituga based on a 3D scan with a smartphone. 3D scan: Gabriel Kamundala, 3D model: Chris Elivis Leisi, ZHdK ©2022

Planet Digital was a curated cooperation between the University of Zurich and Museum für Gestaltung Zürich and made possible by the Digitalization Initiative of the Zurich Higher Education Institutions DIZH and Stiftung Mercator Schweiz.
The exhibition showcased 26 different segments on today`s artistic and scientific state of digitization. The exhibition took place from 11th February to 6th June 2022.


KAMITUGA | DIGITAL GOLD allowed the visitors insights behind the shiny surface of the mobile tech industry and invited the visitors to engage with the concrete challenges and living conditions of artisanal gold miners in the region of Kamituga (Democratic Republic of Congo).
The starting point for all digitally-based experiences were the photographs, videos and 3D scans that PhD candidate Gabriel Kamundala recorded in Kamituga in the summer of 2021 using a latest-generation smartphone. In this way, a ubiquitous device, itself containing gold and rare minerals, provided insights into the living conditions of artisanal mine workers and, at the same time, drew attention to the many challenges of the mobile tech industry.

Teaser video: Kamituga Dgital Gold (Alan Sahin / Christian Iseli © ZHdK 2022)

Visitors also encountered texts about the global context. With the help of QR codes, they could view supplementary information on their smartphones. Thus, awareness of both how our digitalized lives are dependent on rare minerals and of the problematic interrelation of supply chains in the mobile tech industry was promoted.

Chris Elvis Leisi: Interaction Design, 3D Experience
Florian Christoph Bruggisser: Spatial Augmented Reality Engineer£
Mariana Vieira Gruenig: Scenography
Alan Sahin: Video editing, storytelling
Patrycja Pakiela: Sound design
Alfred Borauzima: Additional on location audio recordings
Alliance Riziki Murhula, Edward Wright: Translation, proofreading
Shabnam Chamani, Rino Hosennen: Voice over
Sébastien Schiesser: Chief Technician
Kristina Jungic: Production Manager
Christian Iseli: Project Lead

Zürich meets Berlin

Kamituga | Digital Gold in an adapted version was part of the Festival Zurich meets Berlin. From 3rd to 7th  November 2022 projects from ETH, University of Zurich, ZHdK and ZHAW were displayed at the Museum für Naturkunde in the heart of Berlin! 

Screenshot from the scan of a artisanal mine in Kamituga
Screenshot from the scan of a artisanal mine in Kamituga

Furthermore, a panel discussion with Gabriel Kamundala (PhD student, Department of Geography UZH) and Florian Bruggisser (Research Associate, ZHdK) hosted by Gayatri Parameswaran (KUSUNDA, NowHere Media) took place on Saturday, November 4th. During the panel the experts gave insights into the creation of the exhibition and try to give outlooks on what can be done to create a more sustainable, more transparent and social chain of trade and consumption.

Prague Quadrennial 2023

The Prague Quadrennial (PQ) is an international, renowned festival for scenography, design and art and in 2023 the Immersive Arts Space got the chance to represent Switzerland in the Student Exhibition (SE).
For this occasion we transformed Kamituga | Digital Gold once more into an installation resembling a gold cube. The sculptural walk-through environment acts as a portal (with the help of giant QR codes) to an online interface that allows visitors to follow the concrete stages of gold extraction and its global entanglement with supply chains, from mines to mobile phones.

In this way, a ubiquitous device that itself contains gold and rare minerals provides an insight into the living conditions of artisanal miners, while drawing attention to the many challenges facing the mobile tech industry. The irony of digital gold as an enabler and inhibitor of global privilege is central to the project.

Chris Elvis Leisi: Interaction Design, 3D Experience/Immersive Arts Space
Florian Christoph Bruggisser: Spatial Augmented Reality Engineer/Immersive Arts Space
Christian Iseli: Website Integration
Mariana Vieira Miguel Grünig: Scenography
Dominik Fedier: Lead Technician
Sergej Tratar-Baamonde: Head of Technical Production
Kristina Jungic: Production Lead
Chris Salter: Project Lead

Digital Gold VR

Recently, we have developed a virtual version of the original exhibition at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich. Based on sophisticated scans of the exhibition segment at the museum a transformation from a real into a virtual exhibition was possible. Hereby VR users are able to walk through the exhibition and immerse into the volumetric scans of the mines in Kamituga.

Currently, Gabriel Kamundala is presenting the VR version in the DRC as well as Kamituga itself. By this, the main characters seen in the exhibition get the chance to see and experience we created for themselves.