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The Otolith Group
est. 2002, London
The Otolith Group was founded in 2002 by Kodwo Eshun (b. 1966, London) and Anjalika Sagar (b. 1968, London). Eshun earned a BA and MA in English Literature at University College, Oxford (1988) and an MA in Literary Theory at Southampton University (1990). Sagar earned a BA in Social Anthropology and Hindi at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London (1997) and an MA in Fine Art and Theory at Middlesex University (2004). The group integrates film and video production with curating, programming, and writing. With a name derived from a part of the inner ear sensitive to gravity and motion, responsible for physical equilibrium, the group operates as a platform for dialogue on contemporary art practice. The referential complexity of their work elicits an interpretive commitment from the viewer; layered, provocative, and speculative, the works invite decoding but promise no solutions.
The Otolith Group’s films, installations, and performances are driven by extensive research into the histories of science fiction and the legacies of tricontinentalism focusing on Asia, Africa, and South America. They rework archival and contemporary images, recorded sound, documentary accounts, and fictional narratives in order to complicate divisions between poetry, history, the real, and the imagined. The group regularly deploys the forms of the video essay and the performative lecture. Their eponymous video trilogy displays the group’s signature interweaving of cinematic mise-en-scènes and reportage, readymade and original texts and images. Otolith (2003) envisions a future in which the human otolith is no longer calibrated to the earth’s gravitation due to extended sojourns in space. The video features an expository voice from the 22nd century, a fictional descendant of Sagar’s, continuing a lineage that stretches back to Sagar’s grandmother, another narrator of the film. Otolith II (2007) turns an enquiring eye on Chandigarh’s modernist architecture, designed by Le Corbusier, and the slums of Mumbai. Otolith III (2009) proposes a temporal paradox in its revision of an unfilmed science fiction screenplay by Satyajit Ray from 1967. For Inner Time of Television (2007), they collaborated with film essayist Chris Marker to install his 13-part television series on Greek philosophy, The Owl’s Legacy (1989). Though screened in France and the U.K., the series was never broadcast in Greece, intensifying the restorative aspect of the project. The Radiant (2012) addresses the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown in Japan, traveling back and forth in time to question the ethics and consequences of atomic energy.
The Otolith Group was short-listed for the Turner Prize in 2010. In addition to co-organizing The Ghosts of Songs: A Retrospective of the Black Audio Film Collective 1982–1998, FACT, Liverpool, and Arnolfini, Bristol (2007), and Harun Farocki: 21 Films, Tate Modern, London (2009), the group has been featured in solo presentations at Argos Centre for Art and Media, Brussels (2007), The Showroom and Gasworks, London (2009), MACBA, Barcelona (2011), Bétonsalon, Paris (2011), MAXXI, Rome (2011–12), and Project 88, Mumbai (2012). The group has participated in numerous group exhibitions including New British Art, Tate Triennial, London (2006), Ecotopia, ICP Triennial, New York (2006), Translocalmotion, Shanghai Biennial (2008), Manifesta 8, Murcia, Spain (2010–11), There is always a cup of sea to sail in, Sao Paulo Biennial (2010), In the Days of the Comet, British Art Show 7, Hayward Gallery, London (2010), and Documenta 13 (2012). The Otolith Group is based in London.