Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory, Utrecht, Netherlands 14 Nov 2014 - 25 Jan 2015
The Otolith Group, In the Year of the Quiet Sun, film still 2013. Courtesy and copyright the artists
Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory presents newly commissioned work by The Otolith Group, a cluster of new films and installations envisioning moments from the Promethean project of mid-20th-century Pan-Africanism.
The Otolith Group’s first solo exhibition in the Netherlands configures moments from the grand project of mid-20th-century Pan-Africanism. Envisaged as the total liberation of the African continent from Europe’s empires, the project focuses on a micro artifact, namely the postal stamp, issued to commemorate the independence of African nation-states. In the Year of the Quiet Sun incorporates three major new works consisting of a film, an Incomplete Timeline of Independence Stamps, and an installation devoted to the first decade of controversial journal Transition published in Kampala in 1961.
The post-lens essay-film In the Year of the Quiet Sun, also the title of the exhibition, explores the role of the Ghana Philatelic Agency. This mysterious Wall Street company created the Pan-Africanist Pop aesthetic associated with the independent state of Ghana from 1957 until the overthrow of its first president, Kwame Nkrumah, in 1966. Connecting postal politics depicting antagonistic policies of newly independent states to the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement within the unstable context of the global Cold War, the title also points to the decrease in solar surface temperature that occurs every 11 years.
Occupying two rooms of Casco’s new space, the installation Statecraft envisions the short century of decolonization as a political calendar assembled from the medium of the postage stamp. These masscult artifacts were issued to commemorate the independence of Africa’s new nation-states, from Liberia in 1847 to South Sudan in 2011. The formation reveals the iconography of independence as a combination of Pan-Africanist Pop Art, New Elizabethan cult of personality, and Social Realist portraiture.
The installation One Out of Many Afrophilias displays the first decade of the controversial periodical Transition founded in 1961 in Kampala, Uganda by poet and editor Rajat Neogy. From its inception, Transition acted as a platform for avant-garde African literature. It was also a crucible for an intense debate over the direction of African political cultures that only intensified in 1967 when its funders, the Congress for Cultural Freedom, were revealed to be supported by the Central Intelligence Agency.
At the opening, the animation Sovereign Sisters will be screened. Conceived and directed by The Otolith Group and animated by Scanlab, Sovereign Sisters depicts the Monument to the Universal Postal Union, designed by René de Saint-Marceaux in 1909. The globe encircled by goddesses that represent the five continents personifies the imperial infrastructure of the Universal Postal Union that continues into the present within the framework of the United Nations. In Sovereign Sisters, the automatism of planetary infrastructure is depicted as a wraith-like entity that turns on its axis for eternity.
The works in the exhibition were co-commissioned and co-developed in collaboration with Bergen Kunsthall and Casco in partnership with Artsonje Center, Seoul. In the Year of the Quiet Sun was co-commissioned with Casco and Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin in partnership with Artsonje Center.
The initial conception of In the Year of Quiet Sun is made possible with special support of Mondriaan Fund. The exhibition takes place in the framework of collaborative research with Iaspis, Stockholm and Iniva, London, titled Practice International, funded by the European Union Culture Programme.
Opening: 14 November, 6pm, wit a conversation with art historian Eric de Bruyn at 8pm
Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory is a Utrecht-based public institution for artistic research and experiments, that are cross-disciplinary, open to collaboration, and process-driven. Casco’s program is made possible with the financial support of City Council of Utrecht, Mondriaan Fund, DOEN Foundation, and K.F. Hein Fonds.
Casco – Office of Art, Design and Theory
Lange Nieuwstraat 7
3512 PA, Utrecht