The Otolith Group
Artists Like Us

From July 18 to September 13, 2014
Opening on July 18 at 8 pm


For the first Montreal exhibition devoted to the work of The Otolith Group, Dazibao has put together a program of films set in obsolete future times. Particularly working with existing images—archives, documentaries, propaganda images or images taken from the news—The Otolith Group analyses, interprets and recreates the political and social history of our time to offer a resolutely committed reading of that history.

The anonymity of the collective, or more precisely its non-personalised aspect, is one of the bedrocks of the group’s practice. It is a proponent of the fundamentally collective and militant film-essay in which, paradoxically, a strong aesthetic signature contests the traditional univocal authority of the documentary as if this authority were a worn-out holdover. Examining head-on the image and the utopia of a possible depiction of “things” such as ideas, social struggles and the political (non-)evolution of certain groups is a radical way to militate. Whether in video, public talks or curatorial projects, The Otolith Group gives its work the scope of political and even educational projects in which history is reconstructed in a new manner to the benefit of all. It is this way of working that Artists Like Us wishes to underscore.



12:00 PM | Anathema (2011) - 37 min.

Anathema re-imagines the microscopic behaviour of liquid crystals undergoing turbulence as a sentient entity that possesses fingertips and eyes enthralled by the LCD touch-screens of communicative capitalism. By bringing the telecommunicating couplings of mother-father-daughter-son-machines and boyfriend-girlfriend-units into contact with the conductive imagery of liquid crystallization, Anathema proposes itself as a prototype for a counter-spell assembled from the possible worlds of capitalist sorcery.

12:45 PM | The radiant (2012) - 64 min. 14 sec.

The Radiant explores the aftermath of the Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami that killed many thousands and caused the partial meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. A film essay burdened by the difficult task of representing the invisible aftermath of nuclear fallout, The Radiant travels through time and space to invoke the historical promises of nuclear energy and the threats of radiation in the months following the disasters. This cinematic document offers glimpses into the shape and presence of an unseen entity and its abstract manifestation through visual phenomena.

2:00 PM | Otolith I (2003) - 22 min. 25 sec. 

Otolith I stages an encounter between the anxiety and depression of the 2003 protests against the impending American invasion of Iraq; a real-life meeting in 1973 in Moscow between the Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman to travel into outer space, and Anjalika Sagar’s grandmother, Anasuya Gyan-Chand, who was President of the National Federation of Indian Women and the intervals of interiority conjured by personal archive films. The film evokes a non-metaphorical weightlessness of alien intimacy and asks: can the future become uncertain once again?

2:30 PM | Otolith III (2009) - 48 min.

Otolith III inhabits the unrealized potentialities of the screenplay for Satyajit Ray’s unmade 1967 film, The Alien. Coalescing into a “premake” of Ray’s film it proposes a provocative argument: perhaps the future of science-fiction is not an account of our encounter with the Alien, but tracing the Alien’s account of our presence within it. A prismatic, polyvocal narration recites and refines a mission to confront Ray in order to take seriously and redeem the unfinished status of their creation. Like ghosts that do not simply appear, but return uninvited, the fugitive character-ideas presuppose habits of the past which must undergo a great unlearning. They must listen to witnesses without proofs. To sound with no images. Stories without narrative. Memories without cause.

3:45 PM | Hydra Decapita (2010) - 31 min. 41 sec.

From 1993 to 2002, the Detroit based electronic music duo Drexciya released an influential series of recordings that imagined a fictional world system entitled Drexciya, populated by the subaquatic descendants of Africans drowned by slavers during the Middle Passage. The fabulation of Drexciya provides the point of departure for Hydra Decapita, a work that summons a series of spectres of capital in order to convene a seance that immerses audiences within an affective evocation of contemporary economic abstraction.

Founded in London by Anjalika Sagar and Kodwo Eshun, The Otolith Group is a collective whose work incorporates film, video, writing, curating exhibitions, publications and the development of workshops and public platforms which make possible a close reading of the image and its role in the world today. The group examines both the heritage and the potentialities of the documentary, the essay film, orality, sound, speculative futures and science fiction.

The Otolith Group has organised workshops and discussions and curated or co-curated programs for festivals and exhibitions, including the travelling exhibition The Ghosts of Songs: A Retrospective of the Black Audio Film Collective 1982-1998 (2007), Harun Farocki. 22 Films: 1968-2009 at Tate Modern (2009) and On Vanishing Land at The Showroom (London, 2013). Their work has been included in group exhibitions such as ECM: A Cultural Archaeology, Haus der Kunst (Munich, 2012); Death of Life and Fiction, Taipei Biennial (2012); and dOCUMENTA 13 (Kassel, 2012). Recently, their work has been the subject of the following exhibitions: Medium Earth at the RedCat centre (Los Angeles, 2013), Westfailure at Project 88, (Mumbai, 2012), I See Infinite Distance between Any Point and Another at Fabrica (Brighton, 2012) and Thoughtform at the MACBA (Barcelona, 2011). In 2010, The Otolith Group was a finalist for the Turner Prize.

This exhibition was organised for Dazibao by France Choinière, in close collaboration with the artists. We thank the artists and LUX (London, UK) for their generous collaboration as well as our members for their support.

Dazibao receives financial support from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Conseil des arts de Montréal, the ministère de la Culture et des Communications and the Ville de Montréal.