The Otolith Group: Xenogenesis is the first large-scale exhibition of The Otolith Group; the artist’s collective with Anjalika Sagar and Kodwo Eshun. The exhibition will survey their practice over eight years, presenting eight compelling narrative films and two installations. Xenogenesis weaves together many strands of imaginative speculation on deep pasts and possible futures.
The Otolith Group
The Otolith Group was established in London in 2002. Eshun and Sagar have been leading experimentalists in the fields of documentary and filmic essays, known both for their own work and for their support and exploration of other filmic practices by programming and organizing discursive events, much of which is done under the name The Otolith Collective. Through these projects, The Otolith Group challenges a white modernist mode of artistic production and expands the global view of art.
Core to the work is an ongoing engagement with the formal methodologies of the essay film understood as a site of experimentation with spaces and times through sonic and visual assemblies. The Otolith Group’s work weaves together performance, science fictions, postcolonial histories, experimental musics, philosophies and sciences with varying 20th and 21st century historically situated political afterlives and futurities.
The title Xenogenesis is inspired by the African-American science fiction writer Octavia Butler’s famous trilogy, The Xenogenesis Trilogy, published between 1987-89. The trilogy began with Dawn in 1987, continued with Adulthood Rites in 1988 and concluded with Imago in 1989. Butler transcended the conventions of the genre, exploring social issues of empathy, climate catastrophe, hybridity, conservation and tribalism. Her writing unleashed a legacy of feminist thinking and new imagination from the late 1980s that influenced Donna Harroway, Sadie Plant and the Xeno Feminists and the Black Quantum Futurists, all of whom are key influences for the Otolith Group’s own work. It is then through the prism of this radical, generative Afrofuturist fiction that the exhibition can be seen and experienced.
Butler’s preoccupation with questions of human extinction, racial distinction, planetary transformation, and altered kinship are considered as a kind of generative engine and site of reference for the exhibition itself.
Along with Octavia Butler (1947 –2006), other key figures that form a compositional matrix for the travelling exhibition include the composer and musician Julius Eastman (1940–1990) and the polymath and educator Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941).
The exhibition was first shown at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven and is curated by Annie Fletcher. Exhibition architecture is by Diogo Passarinho Studio.
Following its presentation at VAM the exhibition tours to the following venues: VCU Institute for Contemporary Art, Richmond VA; Brixton Contemporary Melbourne; Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Lethbridge, Canada; IMMA, Dublin; Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester; Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a major publication produced by IMMA which will be the first monograph on the artists’ work and will include existing and newly commissioned texts by a number of authors from different fields including Mark Fisher, Anselm Franke, Fred Moten, Kodwo Eshun, Mahon Moalemi, Grant Watson and an interview between Annie Fletcher and the artists.
During Xenogenesis, The Otolith Group, and their longstanding curatorial platform The Otolith Collective, will initiate the Department of Xenogenesis as a pedagogical experiment in Black Study that will develop throughout the touring exhibition from 2019 to 2021.
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