The Otolith Group

    26.11.2020 Lecture

    Otolith Group

    On the idea of Otolith and the idea of Group.

    This black Hamlet said his name was Otolith meaning a kind of minute calcareous body that makes it possible for a fish to be conscious of its position in space. Under the influence of gravity otoliths will press downward. As the position of the body moves, they will come in contact with sensory hairs in the ampullae, thus causing impulse to be transmitted to the brain by the auditory nerve. Because of the arrangement of the three canals in the three planes of space – from the dorsal part of the vestibule to the utriculus – provision is made for sensation of movements in all directions.

    Dambudzo Marechera, The Black Insider, Lawrence & Wishart, London, 1992,75.

    When Marechera points to the otoliths’ capacity for impulse transmission, what he highlights is its ability to enable auditory transmission across, within and between the ‘three planes of space’ of a body’s movement.

    Marechera draws attention to the ways in which otoliths operate within a sensory apparatus that make possible a dogfish or a shark’s consciousness of its stable or mobile position in a fluid space of turbulence.

    When Marechera’s unnamed antagonist almost collides with Otolith, the disillusioned, transfigured damned ‘Black Hamlet’ draped in Black Elizabethan dress, in the corridor of a ruined, deserted faculty building in a war zone in the near future, this unrequited collision stages a dissonant meeting between differing but not necessarily oppositional ways of navigating space, managing scale and processing time.

    In the glancing friction of Marechera’s proleptic encounter can be read an allegory for the process, the project and the practice of The Otolith Group.

    For Kodwo Eshun and Anjalika Sagar the morphological figure of the otolith operates as a kind of Black box for withholding intention, gauging impact, measuring expectation and calculating discrepancy.

    A sensorial compass for orienting traps solicited as invitations camouflaged as participation dissimulated as encouragment and framed as shareable.

    A flight recorder for updating the coordinates required for a speculation upon matters of gravity and questions of grace, gradient, devotion, illumination, numinousity, force, mass, measure, motion, stasis, stance, style, rest, pose, posture, fermata, caesura, duress, duration, increment, interiority and introspection.

    Articulating the idea of the Otolith with the idea of the Group engenders a supernumerary form of life which alludes to the histories of collective practices invented by artists that theorise and writers that practice art within and beyond the precincts of the United Kingdom.

    A form of life which breaks with the idea of the singular artist and aligns itself with the crisis of authorship signalled by the advent of collective production.

    Which conceives of itself as an interscalar vehicle that suspends the numerical and statistical imperatives of accountability, recognisability and representability demanded by institutions isomorphically formatted according to the area-studies protocols of Globally Heating Cultural Cold Forever Wars.

    A form of life that announces its devotion to an aesthetics of discrepant abstraction, science fictions of the present, thickening time, devotional cinematography, post-cinematic blackness and post-lens based platformalisms.

    A form of life which understands itself as an intertemporal device for the exploration of temporal anomalies, synthetic alienations, anthropic inversions and the artificialisation of intelligence.

    Approaching curation as an artistic practice of building intergenerational and cross-cultural platforms, the Otolith Collective has been influential in critically introducing particular works of a range of artists such as Chris Marker, Harun Farocki, Anand Patwardhan, Etel Adnan, Black Audio Film Collective, Sue Clayton, Mani Kaul, Peter Watkins, and Chimurenga in the UK, US, Europe, Bangladesh, India, Lebanon and elsewhere.