Bergen Kunsthall opens the spring season with “In the Year of the Quiet Sun” the first major exhibition by The Otolith Group in the Nordic region
The Otolith Group’s first exhibition in Norway, “In the Year of the Quiet Sun” 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, through the media of animation, video, interior decor, display-system, reading room and publication.
The works created for In the Year of the Quiet Sun operate as peculiar anomalies that seek to summon forces of indexicality and iconicity from the aspirations, alibis and abuses of sovereignty that emerge in the fields of postal politics, imperial infrastructure and magazine diplomacy.
In the installation Statecraft (2014), the short century of decolonization is envisioned as a political calendar assembled from the medium of the postage stamp. These masscult artifacts, issued to commemorate the independence of African nation-states, from Liberia in 1847 to South Sudan in 2011, are integrated into an elaborate display system that reveals the convergence of Pan-Africanist Pop with Social Realist portraiture. Statecraft approaches the postage stamp less as a witness to history in the making than as a form of evil media that elevates the sovereignty of dictators and revolutionaries alike.
The essay film In the Year of the Quiet Sun (2013) takes its name from the decrease in solar surface temperature that occurs every eleven years. From November 1964 to November 1965, the nation states of the world issued postage stamps to commemorate the first scientific expedition to study the sun. As the stamps turned their face towards the sky, they overlooked the unstable land of Africa’s newly independent states.
If the founding of the Universal Postal Union in Bern in 1874 can be understood as the instituting of imperial infrastructure then Rene de Saint-Marceaux’s 1907 monument to the UPU stands as the first attempt to visualise global communication. Conceived by The Otolith Group and animated by ScanLab, Sovereign Sisters (2014) mobilises Saint Marceaux’s monument into a digital hymn to the automatism of planetary infrastructure.
The installation One Out of Many Afrophilias (2014) summons the energies of the controversial Transition magazine, founded in 1961 in Kampala, Uganda, by poet and editor Rajat Neogy. One Out of Many Afrophilias conjures Transition’s influential Afropolitanism into a fictional skyline that combines interior décor with display system and reading room.
In its distanced forms of abstracted décor and allusive display, its essayistic engagement with video and its eldritch deployment of animation, the works assembled In the Year of the Quiet Sun reveal the designs that Pan Africanism exerted and continues to exert upon its subjects; in doing so, it hints at the magic wielded by newly born states upon citizens, exiles, refugees and diaspora.
THE OTOLITH GROUP was founded in 2002 by Anjalika Sagar and Kodwo Eshun. The Otolith Group are based in London.
Statecraft (2014), Sovereign Sisters (2014) and One Out of Many Afrophilias (2014) were co-commissioned and co-developed in collaboration with Bergen Kunsthall, Bergen and Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory in partnership with Artsonje Center.
In the Year of the Quiet Sun (2013) was co-commissioned with Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin and Casco-Office for Art, Design and Theory in partnership with Artsonje Center.
In the Year of the Quiet Sun will be presented at Casco-Office for Art, Design and Theory in late autumn 2014.