Reviewed by Catherine Borra
As a continuation of their first video Otolith I, Anjalika Sagar and Kodwo Eshun aka the Otolith Group, present their second work (Otolith II) at Lisson Gallery, as the UK premiere.
Like for Otolith I, this work follows three main lines at the same time: the narrator’s voice, belonging to a women that speaks to us from the future; the images, that are mainly shots of poor Indian suburbs; and finally the point of view of the public, that summarizes all of this information.
The narrator is questioning herself about our era, on how the almighty divinities of Capital and of Spectacle were introduced, and if they are still influent in her own age, talking of them as if they were an obscure force that may appear in her own time as well. As she debates on these issues, we see struggling scenes of everyday life in India’s biggest shanty towns alternated with images of shootings in studios for the local TVs (the frivolity of the divinity of spectacle, that tempts many but satisfies few).
During this screening, a multitude of reconnections might go on in the western viewer’s mind: in the first place, there is a bewilderment caused by the words spoken by the narrator and the images that are presented: it takes a while to contextualize sound and vision. Then, one has to position its expectations about scenes of a third world / less developed country: the viewer may feel on the same level of the narrator, as if those images of degrade belonged to his own past too.
But suddenly there is a time overlap: the viewer is given the images of a building by Le Corbusier at Chennay to elaborate inside of this context. This powerful building, with a futuristic design that could overtake most of the scenarios a European is used to see, is now decadent and abandoned. It’s a dead building that time, vegetation and other various abuses have set into the past. But this is not the past that was identified before, this can be seen as the Western world’s personal past: its future.
The artists talk about using science-fiction in their video, and indeed we can trace all the elements that we could find, say, in a social science-fiction novel by Philip K. Dick – The Simulacra. Things are not as they seem, the science-fiction narrative is used in order to permit a side vision of reality: the fiction of the video is turned into a reflection on contemporary society, and the superimposition of different points of view lead us to reconsider our original statements about what belongs to the present and what belongs to the past.