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The University of Southampton
Archaeologies of Media and Technology Research group

Screening: Louis Henderson Event

Film still
17:00 - 18:30
10 October 2016
Winchester School of Art Lecture Theatre B (LTB, East Building) Organised by the Archaeologies of Media & Technology (Amt) research group

For more information regarding this event, please email Professor Jussi Parikka at .

Event details

A screening of films by Louis Henderson, followed by a discussion on post-cinema and materiality.

All That Is Solid (2014) HD 15’26”
Lettres Du Voyant (2013), HD, 40 min

Recommended reading for the session:

Hito Steyerl, “Too Much World: Is the Internet Dead?” e-flux, #49, November 2013, 
Louis Henderson’s delicate journey through a real and virtual contemporary Ghana” 

Louis Henderson is an English filmmaker whose films and writings search to problematise questions around post-colonialism, technology, capitalism and history. A graduate of London College of Communication and Le Fresnoy – studio national des arts contemporains, Henderson is currently completing a PhD within an experimental art and research group at the European School of Visual Arts. His research focuses on new materialities of the Internet and the colonialisation of cyber space through planetary scale computing. He has shown his work at places such as; Rotterdam International Film Festival, CPH:DOX, transmediale, Muestra Internacional Documental de Bogota, The Centre Pompidou, FRAC Midi-Pyrénées, Louisiana museum of Modern Art, Tate Modern and Whitechapel Gallery. His work is distributed by Video Data Bank.

Introduction to the films

ALL THAT IS SOLID (2014) HD 15’26”

This is a film that takes place.
In between a hard place,
a hard drive,
an imaginary,
a soft space – the cloud that holds my data.
And in the soft grey matter,
Contained within the head.
A technographic study of e-recycling and neo-colonial mining filmed in the Agbogbloshie electronic waste ground in Accra and illegal gold mines of Ghana.  The video constructs a mise-en-abyme as critique in order to dispel the capitalist myth of the immateriality of new technology - thus revealing the mineral weight with which the Cloud is grounded to its earthly origins.

As technological progress pushes forward in the west, enormous piles of obsolete computers are thrown away and recycled.  Pushed out of sight and sent to the coast of West Africa these computers are thrown into waste grounds such as Agbogbloshie in Accra, Ghana.  On arrival the e-waste is recuperated by young men, who break and burn the plastic casings in order to extract the precious metals contained within.  Eventually the metals are sold, melted and reformed into new objects to be sold – it is a strange system of recycling, a kind of reverse neocolonial mining, whereby the African is searching for mineral resources in the materials of Europe.  Through showing these heavy processes, the video highlights the importance of dispelling the capitalist myth of the immateriality of new technology to reveal the mineral weight with which the Cloud is grounded to its earthly origins.

LETTRES DU VOYANT (2013), HD, 40 min

“To take back the gold that was stolen from us – this is the object of our actions.”

Lettres du Voyant is a documentary-fiction about spiritism and technology in contemporary Ghana that attempts to uncover some truths about a mysterious practice called "Sakawa" - internet scams mixed with voodoo magic. Tracing back the scammers’ stories to the times of Ghanaian independence, the film proposes Sakawa as a form of anti-neocolonial resistance.

The film takes the form of a voyage through a network of digitised mine shafts that lead the viewer to each of the film’s locations; a gold mine, an e-waste dump, a voodoo ritual or a discotheque for example. A character recounts a story through reading a series of letters that he has written to the film’s author - letters that speak about the colonial history of Ghana, of gold, of technology.

Internet voodoo is on the rise in Ghana, and so is a new industry, where young workers extract not just metals, but also bank details and holiday photos from hard drives that are sent to be scrapped. A kind of reverse archaeological mining, where the metals, which were initially exported to the West, now return in the form of antiquated hardware. All this according to the Ghanian storyteller, who presents his country in this 'letters from a visionary', which form the narrative backbone (and title) of Henderson's hypnotic film, which illustrates his dizzying points with the open mind of a wandering spectator and with graphical 3D reconstructions of underground mine systems. Past European colonists stole Ghana's gold and forced their Christian religion upon them. Now, historical amnesia is being avenged. The young, Le Fresnoy-trained director Louis Henderson is preoccupied by the dark forces set free by post-colonial consciousness, and in his current film works he renews the 'ethno-fictional' hybrid tradition to let the real and the imaginary stand in perfect balance in a documentary depiction of historical situations.

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