Xenogenesis brings together a selection of key works by the The Otolith Group, the London-based art collective consisting of Anjalika Sagar and Kodwo Eshun, founded in 2002. This cross-section of works, created between 2011 and 2018, reflects the artists’ ongoing commitment to creating what they call ‘a science fiction of the present’ through the use of images, voices, sounds and performance. Suspended between fiction, poetry, documentary and theory, The Otolith Group’s post-cinematic films, high definition videos and multiple screen installations address the global crises of the Racial Capitalocene that have shaped contemporary planetary capitalism.
The title of the exhibition references the African-American science fiction novelist Octavia Butler’s legendary Xenogenesis trilogy which opens with Dawn (1987), continues with Adulthood Rites (1988) and concludes with Imago (1989). The term Xenogenesis conjoins the Greek prefix xenos meaning strange or alien with the suffix genesis meaning origin or generation. Butler’s neologism informs Eshun and Sagar’s longstanding preoccupation with the promise and threat of the idea of alien becoming.
The most recent work in Xenogenesis, O Horizon (2018), is a portrait of Visva Bharati University, which was established in 1919 in Santiniketan, West Bengal, by the polymath Rabindranath Tagore. Alongside Butler and Tagore, the music of the African-American avant-garde composer Julius Eastman, provides the raison d’etre for the installation The Third Part of the Third Measure (2017) dedicated by Sagar and Eshun to the memory of their friend Mark Fisher and the Movement for Black Lives.
Xenogenesis was first shown at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven in May 2019, and was curated by Annie Fletcher. Its presentation in Sharjah is organised by Van Abbemuseum and Sharjah Art Foundation and co-curated by Annie Fletcher, Director, Irish Museum of Modern Art and Hoor Al Qasimi, Director, Sharjah Art Foundation. Original exhibition architecture designed by Diogo Passarinho Studio.
Xenogenesis was on view at the Institute for Contemporary Art, Richmond, Virginia (2020), Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Lethbridge (2020), and Buxton Contemporary, Melbourne (2020) Following its presentation in Sharjah, the exhibition will travel to the Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkove, Ljubljana in 2022 and the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, in 2022.
In conjunction with The Otolith Group’s exhibition Xenogenesis, on view at Sharjah Art Foundation from 13 November 2021 to 5 February 2022, the members of the art collective, Kodwo Eshun and Anjalika Sagar, will discuss the featured works in the exhibition and the ideas of science-fiction writer Octavia Butler with critics, writers and the exhibition curator Annie Fletcher.