THE OTOLITH GROUP
In its first floor exhibition space Argos will present the film Otolith I, by the Otolith Group. The Otolith Group was founded in 2002 by the artist Anjalika Sagar and the cultural theorist Kodwo Eshun, who collaborated with the artist Richard Couzins to make Otolith I. The film essay probes the potency of archival images, exploring the poeticisation of mediated memory.
Taking its name from otoliths, the minute particles found in the inner ear that help us to balance and to navigate our way across space, the film aims at reorienting our perceptions of the world by weaving personal and public histories together into a meditation upon the persistence of utopian aspirations. “Earth is out of bounds for us now; it remains a planet accessible only through media”, the viewer is told at the beginning of the film, suggesting a post-nuclear future in which humankind is confined to outer space. Through prolonged space travel, the film tells us, otoliths have ceased to function, leaving homo sapiens unable to walk the earth. Instead the new mutants research images “sifting aging history from the tense present in order to identify the critical points of the twentieth century”.
The film’s narrator is Dr. Usha Adebaran Sagar, a fictional descendant of Anjalika Sagar, living in space in the year 2103. The narrator looks back at several generations of women from the Sagar family, linking her own experiences with those of Sagar’s grandmother during the 1960s when she met Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman to orbit the Earth. “For us”, the narrator declares, “there is no memory without image and no image without memory. Image is the matter of memory”. Her attempts to understand multiple dimensions of the historical, the terrestrial and the evolutionary bring together existing images of very different qualities and registers: 35 mm footage of mushroom cloud explosions that have indelibly seared the collective consciousness; digital video footage of London’s peace marchers in the run-up to the Iraq war; private memories captured on Standard 8 film from 1970s London and Haridwar.
The Group filmed Sagar floating in micro-gravity at Star City outside Moscow, where cosmonauts still train. Sagar’s physical and temporal disorientation is echoed by the contrasting film stocks, subtly tinting the world different shades as they refract and redefine the past. Bringing together numerous fractured histories with difficult presents represented by India and Pakistan’s embrace of nuclear armament, Otolith I projects a ‘past-potential future’ thereby allowing for a different perspective on the present.
The Otolith Group (Kodwo Eshun & Anjalika Sagar) was founded in 2002. Based in London, their work engages with archival materials, with futurity and with the history of diverse provenances. Recently the Otolith Group have shown their work at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Project Arts Centre, Dublin (2006/7), Seville Biennial, Seville, 2nd ICP Triennial of Photography and Video, New York, the Hayward Gallery, London, Fondazione Sandretto Rebaudengo, Turin, the Tate Triennial, London (2006), Homeworks II, Lebanon, Cornerhouse, Manchester (2005), and Transmediale, Berlin (2004).
The Otolith Group presentation is a co-production between Argos and KunstenFestivaldesArts.