The Otolith Group: Xenogenesis
What does it mean to exist in a state of “becoming alien” or “becoming strange”? These questions power The Otolith Group: Xenogenesis. The exhibition presents a cross-section of artworks from 2011 to 2018 by The Otolith Group, established in 2002 by Anjalika Sagar (b. 1968 London) and Kodwo Eshun (b. 1966, London).
The term Xenogenesis alludes to influential African-American science fiction novelist Octavia Estelle Butler (1947–2006)’s classic Xenogenesis Trilogy, published from 1987 to 89 and later retitled Lilith’s Brood. Butler’s powerful novels investigated questions of human extinction, racial distinction, planetary transformation, enforced mutation, generative alienation, and altered kinship. Along with Butler, two other key figures are key to the conception of Xenogenesis. The towering musical achievements of the African-American avant-garde composer Julius Eastman (1940–1990) forms the object and the attitude of The Third Part of the Third Measure (2017), while the enduring experiments in art as pedagogy and psychology by the Indian polymath Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941) shape the subject and the method of O Horizon (2018).
The Otolith Group: Xenogenesis weaves together many strands of imaginative speculation on deep pasts and possible futures. It embraces multiple histories of science fiction, independence struggles, experimental music, global communication and ecological crises that dramatize The Otolith Group’s ongoing fascination with matters of “alien intimacy.” Key works include the abstract digital video Anathema (2011); the epic installation Statecraft (2014); the two-screen video projection The Third Part of the Third Measure (2017), and the feature-length portrait O Horizon (2018).
The Otolith Group: Xenogenesis is organized by the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, the Netherlands and curated by Annie Fletcher. The Otolith Group: Xenogenesis is the first large-scale exhibition of The Otolith Group in North America; the ICA’s presentation is the only opportunity to see this exhibition in the United States.
ABOUT THE OTOLITH GROUP
The Otolith Group (est. 2002) consists of Kodwo Eshun (b. 1966, London) and Anjalika Sagar (b. 1968, London). The Otolith Group’s work emerges from traditions of the essay film and militant filmmaking. Encompassing their celebrated moving image work and writing, their practice bridges an ongoing preoccupation with science fiction, futurology and unresolved histories related to the African and Asian diasporas of the Global South. Eshun and Sagar’s essayistic aesthetics seek to explore what the artists describe as “the temporal anomalies, anthropic inversions, and synthetic alienation of the posthuman, the inhuman and the non-human.”
Otoliths are calcium carbonate microcrystals located within the middle ear that sense gravity, balance, and movement. According to the artists, “the idea of the otolith allows for the construction of fabulations that seek to estrange the states of normative duress, customary distress and habitual pressure that bear upon the genres of the human.”