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All IMMA Talks are recorded and the vast majority are made available on our Soundcloud page, an incredible free resource where you can hear directly from artists, curators and leading thinkers on the themes behind the work we present. We are in the process of transferring our Soundcloud archive to this new site, but in the meantime you can visit our full archive on Soundcloud, or search this site for transferred media below.

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This talk introduces the exhibition Xenogenesis from the context of African-American author Octavia Butler’s science fiction trilogy of which the exhibition is named after, the novels in the Xenogenesis trilogy are Dawn, Adulthood Rites and Imago, and gives insight into Dr. Wilkins research, as the recently appointed Irish Research Council Enterprise Postdoctoral Fellow working with both IMMA and Trinity College Dublin.

Octavia Butler tells Rosalie G. Harris, in the November 1980 interview for Equal Opportunity Forum Magazine, that “I think science fiction writers are a little bit more willing to use their minds. They want different things to think about.” In Butler’s Xenogenesis novels, Butler invites her readers to “think about” the essential Nature of human beings. In Dawn, Butler proposes that humans are “intelligent and hierarchical”. Hierarchical because of the genetics of our evolutionary history, and our intelligence is a relatively new mutation in our species growth. This combination of intelligence and a need for hierarchies will bring humanity and the Earth to a cataclysmic end. One of Butler’s remedies is biotechnology:

The thought that maybe what we needed was a biological conscience. It does seem me that there are too many people in this world who would just as soon wipe out half their country, if they could rule the other half. We keep running across them, and they keep starting wars…they don’t have a wonderful new philosophy. What they have is a desire to be immensely rich and powerful.

This talk by Wilkins explores pertinent questions of essentialism, anti-essentialism and hope, as we reflect on links between technology and human development in the work of The Otolith Group. The evening’s discussion also draws on material covered by Dr. Wilkins in a reading group that explores Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy, see more details here.

Dr. John Wilkins

Dr. John Wilkins identifies as U.S.-Black and Gay. Born in North Carolina, he earned his B.A. from Franklin & Marshall College, in Lancaster Pennsylvania; his MA in English Literature from the L’Université de Montréal, Canada and his doctorate from Trinity College Dublin’s School of English where he interrogated representations of “Black Gay Male Identity in the African Diaspora”.  ​

Dr. Wilkins has taught on undergraduate and graduate course modules such as “The American Genre”,  “Modernism”, “Post-Colonialism”, and “Romanticism” in Trinity College’s School of English; he has lectured in Trinity College’s Sociology Department on the subject of “Black African Voices in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade”; lectured in UCD’s School of Social Justice on the subject of “Black Male Identity”; lectured in UCD’s Sociology Department on the subject of “Black Activism and Movements in the Black Atlantic”; Dr. Wilkins was a Moderator on Trinity College Dublin’s “Black Identity in the Americas” Conference ; presented at “Sibéil’s Feminist and Gender Network Studies Conference on “Black Gay Male Identity in the African Diaspora”; and also the African Scholars Association Ireland (AFSAI)  Conference on the subject of “The Black Body and White Memory”.

His research interests are the intersections of gender, race, and National identity.  His most recent article, “Give Me Back My N’Gresse!”, connects the Black Lives Matter Movement, Orientalism, and Visual Culture to decry the Shelbourne N’gresse Statues as an inappropriate sign of Irish National Identity.

Dr. Wilkins is an Irish Research Council Enterprise Postdoctoral Fellow working with both IMMA and Trinity College Dublin.

The Otolith Group

The Otolith Group was founded by artists and theorists Anjalika Sagar and Kodwo Eshun in 2002. The anatomical entity of the otolith operates as a kind of figurative black box for withholding intention and calculating discrepancy. Articulating the idea of the Otolith with the idea of the Group alludes to the histories of collective practices invented by artists that theorise and theorists that practice art within and beyond the United Kingdom.

Significant solo exhibitions of their work include the touring exhibition Xenogenesis; O Horizon, The Rubin Museum of Art, New York (2018); The Radiant, Art Gallery Miyauchi, Japan (2017); In the Year of the Quiet Sun, Bergen Kunsthall and CASCO Office for Art Design and Theory, Utrecht (2014–2015); Novaya Zemlya, Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto (2014–2015); Medium Earth, REDCAT, Los Angeles (2013); Westfailure, Project 88, Mumbai (2012); Thoughtform, Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona and MAXXI, Rome (2011–2012); A Long Time Between Suns (Part I), Gasworks, London (2009); and A Long Time Between Suns (Part II), The Showroom, London (2009), for which they were nominated for the Turner Prize in 2010.
See more details here

The Otolith Group: Xenogenesis

The Otolith Group: Xenogenesis is curated by Annie Fletcher, Director of IMMA, the exhibition originated at the Van Abbemuseum, the Netherlands, and toured to Buxton Contemporary, Melbourne; Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond; Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Lethbridge, the Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah; and the Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkove, Ljubljana, Slovenia. Exhibition architecture is by Diogo Passarinho Studio.

The exhibition is accompanied by a major new publication, Xenogenesis, an extensive and comprehensive polyphonic exploration of the work of The Otolith Group. See more details here