8 Seconds in Uneven Numbers

What emerges or is withheld in the demolition of a building in the city centre?

What emerges or is withheld in the demolition of a burnt-out building in the Johannesburg city centre at the end of November 2019? To this day, the cause of a fire at the Bank of Lisbon in September 2018, which lasted for 3 days and led to its implosion, has not been disclosed publicly. This despite a series of legal investigations implicating provincial government departments, city offices and the Johannesburg Emergency Services. The Bank of Lisbon housed various departments, including the Department of Health, when it started to burn. On the first day of the fire, three firemen lost their lives as they got trapped on the 23rd floor. It emerged that fire hydrants in the building were dry. Grievous issues of occupational health and safety were ignored for years, despite repeated complaints by office workers and labour unions. At the time of the fire, the building should not have been occupied as it did not meet basic compliance standards.

This project consists of three parts that evolve around the unfolding narrative. It begins with a video recording of the implosion, filmed from the evacuated student residency directly opposite the Bank of Lisbon (a collaboration with Simon Gush and Andrei van Wyk). This is followed by a text that collates online information around the fire, sourced mainly from available news reports and interviews. The final part is a sound piece by Andrei van Wyk: a re-composition of the cameras’ audio recordings that proposes a sonic meditation on the collapse of architecture and a search for a vertical movement through a now imagined space. Between these instances is the attempt to think through Locard’s exchange principle, that ‘every contact leaves a trace’[1] and acknowledge the disparate presence of traces in the city’s nervous system that echo an alternate, socially legitimate reality.


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