Monday, July 1, 2013

Fathoming The Otolith Group’s work

    The Otolith Group was founded by Kodwo Eshun and Anjalika Sagar in 2002. Shortlisted for Turner Prize in 2010 and featured at Frieze 2012, it’s named after the calcium carbonate microcrystals within the inner ear that produce and maintain the bodily sense of orientation.

    Renowned for their videos, curatorial practice, writing, publications and development of discursive platforms for the close readings of documentary fictions, the group has revisited episodes from the archives of the twentieth century in order to intervene into narratives that aim to capture futurity for market fundamentalism. Their work has proposed aesthetic hypotheses that emphasize methods of comparability and modes of connectability.

    Mumbai-based Gallery Project 88 had hosted a show of the group’s exciting works, entitled ‘Westfailure'. The title was adopted from an essay written by British economist Susan Strange in 1999. It’s a homonymic pun that refers to the Westphalia System, the ‘international political system of states claiming exclusive authority and the monopoly of legitimate violence within their territorial limits’, named after the Treaty of Westphalia signed in 1648 by the European powers, in Westphalia outside Munster, Germany.

    Strange argued that in order to prosper, ‘production and trade required the security provided by the state. To survive, the state required the economic growth and the credit-creating system of finance. But the latter has now created three major problems that the political system, by its very nature, is incapable of solving. As a term from the recent past of 1999, Westfailure looks forward to our present. ‘Westfailure’ summarizes the pervasive sense of life as it is lived today, in an ideological junkyard strewn with the wreckage of economic systems.

    The Otolith Collective is a public platform curated and produced by The Otolith Group. As part of its ongoing series ‘Images Sometimes Tremble’, the collective recently presented the first London screenings of ‘Two Russians in the Free World’ (2012, 30 m) and ‘Cloud Cuckoo Land‘ (2008, 17m), two single channel videos by New York based artists Erik Moskowitz and Amanda Trager.  The screenings were followed by a discussion between the artists, and Anjalika Sagar-Kodwo Eshun.

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