New Media

  • (In)Voluntary Mutations
    Maxwell Mutanda

Maxwell Mutanda, Motorcycle couriers waiting at the intersection of Buitenkant Street and Mill Street, Cape Town, South Africa, 2019, Cape Town. Courtesy the artist

(In)Voluntary Mutations addresses dominant Silicon Valley corporations and the architecture of mobile technology in the choreography of daily life. This hegemony, a new monohumanist Imperial Gaze as suggested by sociologist John Galtung, perpetuates structural violence, urban inequality, and environmental injustice. As the virtual systems that we rely on mutate, the built environment presents another augmented reality: as ecommerce ascends, shopping malls fall into dereliction; as ride hailing proliferates, transit systems stagnate and roads congest. Much like the Internet of Things (IoT), inadvertently or not, cities amass structures of dominion. Mutant processes and the Order of the City—referencing architect and urbanist Diana Agrest—should be observed, analyzed, and challenged. (In)Voluntary Mutations presents participatory research, multinational cascading workshops and public presentations as well as collaborative artwork to explore, examine, and investigate technology’s impact on the interstitial spatial practices of low wage, itinerant workers in the Global South—particularly motorcycle couriers that facilitate online food ordering and delivery platforms.

Maxwell Mutanda is a pluridisciplinary artist, researcher, and designer whose architectural based practice promotes sustainable participatory design. He is a cofounder of the design research firm Studio [D] Tale that explores social and environmental issues across disciplines including urbanization, transit, migration, and product innovation. Mutanda received his bachelor’s and postgraduate diploma in architecture from the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London (UCL). He has exhibited internationally including at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen; Arc en Rêve Centre d'Architecture, Bordeaux; the Venice Architecture Biennale; the Oslo Architecture Triennale; and the Chicago Architecture Biennial. He is a past IdeasCity New Orleans Fellow, AFRICA’SOUT! Artist in Resident at Denniston Hill, and a British Council ColabNowNow Resident. Mutanda was a guest lecturer and visiting critic at the University of Cape Town and the University of Johannesburg respectively (2016–17).