The Otolith Group: Xenogenesis

Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, United States
22 Feb 2020 - 10 May 2020

The Otolith Group, O Horizon (still). Courtesy of The Otolith Group.

The Otolith Group, O Horizon (still). Courtesy of The Otolith Group.

Xenogenesis presents a cross-section of The Otolith Group’s works from 2011 to 2018. Part fiction, part documentary, these films and installations address contemporary global issues: how humans have shaped the natural world; what “we” have inherited from colonialism; the unresolved histories of global Asian and African diasporas; and how “we” are changing in response to new technologies. The ICA at VCU will be the only U.S. venue for Xenogenesis, and this presentation marks the group’s first large-scale exhibition in North America.

The term “xenogenesis” alludes to science-fiction novelist Octavia Estelle Butler (1947–2006) and her classic Xenogenesis Trilogy (later retitled Lilith’s Brood). While Butler does not appear directly in this exhibition, her work provides deep inspiration for The Otolith Group—especially the titular concept of “becoming alien” or “alien becoming.”  Along with Butler, two other figures are key to the exhibition: avant-garde composer and pianist Julius Eastman (1940–1990) and the philosopher and social reformer Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941). Together, the works in Xenogenesis reflect The Otolith Group’s commitment to using images and sound to create “a science fiction of the present.”

Established in London in 2002, The Otolith Group consists of artist and theorist Kodwo Eshun (b. 1966) and artist Anjalika Sagar (b. 1968). The Otolith Group: Xenogenesis is organized by the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, the Netherlands and curated by Annie Fletcher, now director of the Irish Museum of Modern Art. The Richmond presentation will span two floors of the ICA’s Steven Holl-designed building, and will include O Horizon (2018), The Third Part of the Third Measure (2017), Sovereign Sisters (2014), Statecraft: An Incomplete Timeline of African Independence (2014–ongoing), In The Year of the Quiet Sun (2013), Who Does the Earth Think It Is (2014), Medium Earth(2013), and Anathema (2011).

The ICA has organized a series of public programs and study opportunities in conjunction with its presentation of Xenogenesis that will allow visitors and community members to engage with the exhibition and its themes. These include a series of salons focused on key themes and works in the exhibition, reading groups on Octavia E. Butler’s work, lectures, workshops, and performances. The public opening on February 21st  will feature artists Kodwo Eshun and Anjalika Sagar in conversation with ICA director Dominic Wilson and exhibition curator Annie Fletcher, director of the Irish Museum of Modern Art; plus a performance by the global African diasporic collective NON Worldwide. Other highlights include a workshop led by the afrofuturist archive Iyapo Repository (an initiative that, like this exhibition, draws inspiration from Octavia E. Butler) (February 22nd); a lecture on Julius Eastman by composer-musicologist George E. Lewis (March 18th), and a performance by poet and musician Moor Mother, co-founder of the Black Quantum Futurism collective (May 6th).


Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University
601 W Broad St
Richmond, VA 23220
United States





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