1. film
      17 – 20 May 2007

      Otolith II

      Casco, Utrecht
    2. The Otolith Group writes, compiles exhibitions and makes essay films. In the film Otolith II, the group explores the situation of women in the lowest castes in India, and how these women are the driving force behind Bombay’s impressive slum architecture. The archive left by Sagar’s grandmother – a leading feminist in India in the 1960s – moved the Otolith Group to report on the unrealized ideals described in this archive.

      Dutch premiere, Thursday 17 May, 20:00 hrs, with an introduction by the artists. Screening times: Thursday 17 May, Friday 18 May, Saturday 19 May & Sunday 20 May, 15:00, 16:00, 17:00, 18:00, 19:00, 20:00 (45 min)

    3. Otolith II captures various slices of life in the shanty towns, which one can see as the city of the future. These moments form an inventory of episodes in what Mike Davis calls ‘The Planet of the Slums’, an inventory which proceeds from the preposterous aesthetic which is typical of the informal homes in the shanty towns. The film thus reveals the global economy’s real circumstances by drawing attention to details of the labour and pastimes, the autonomy and poverty of the women who live there. The idea was to film the everyday architecture of Mumbai’s shanty towns, and so to raise questions about the potential of urban conditions, and how it is possible to live in apparently impossible circumstances.

      How is one to understand this housing architecture? Does such cohabitation lead to a neighbourhood solidarity which can’t be reduced to a strategy of survival? Or is this housing aesthetics a direct index of permanent economic impoverishment? Can we develop a concept of a present-becoming-future which doesn’t proceed from comparison and development? These questions were the starting point for a film essay which is also a science-fiction film about the present.

      The aim of this film is not so much to produce knowledge which in turn will generate empathy, as happens in most documentaries, but to bring forth images and sounds which confound, provoke and raise questions about the potential of sound and image under those circumstances. This potential is not resolved in the form of the typically mute image of video art, nor is it explained by means of the voiceover used in documentaries. Instead, it is worked out in a series of encounters with the present from the viewpoint of a fictional narrator from the 22nd century, who tells us about the future history of housing: she doesn’t tell us how shanty towns emerged but what they became. The film takes seriously the idea of shanty towns as the city of the future. We do not intend to explore what the inhabitants are, but we do want to explore who and what they shall become.

      Otolith II develops the film essay’s audiovisual language by using new footage in combination with existing archive footage. In the film, both types of images are placed in a fictional framework, by which we mean that we produce art in which historical figures are placed in a fictional context, in order to bring forth a work which rests on fiction and documentary, but which can’t be reduced to one or the other genre.

      Otolith II follows naturally on Otolith I since the film makes use of an extensive photographic archive of delegation portraits of communist Indian feminists visiting women workers in the Soviet Union, Vietnam, Japan, Guyana and China. The film thus sets three periods of urban housing next to one another: 1950s modernist planning, early-21st-century shanty-town planning, and the fictional future of the 22nd century – which is evoked by the narrator, but which we never get to see. Different colours mark the different periods in Otolith II, which stretches audiovisual language by linking the question of the use of colour to the contemporary practice of affective modulation.

      In 2002, in response to the American public’s post-9/11 fears, the newly created Department of Homeland Security introduced a colour-coded terrorist-threat advisory scale: Green stands for a Low risk, Blue for General, Yellow for Elevated, Orange for High, and Red for Severe. This advisory scale was developed to modulate public fear by increasing and lowering their level of alarm before it gets too much. It doesn’t tell us anything else about the nature or provenance of the threat, because the population’s cultural diversity means that there is no relation of cause and effect between colour and behaviour. Otolith II applies this advisory scale in a completely different context, suggesting that the encounter with the images and sounds of ‘The Planet of the Slums’ triggers a very different sort of concern, while using the colour codes of the terrorist advisory scale throughout the film.

      Otolith II, 45 min – Concept & Direction: Anjalika Sagar en Kodwo Eshun (The Otolith Group). Otolith II is co-produced by If I Can’t Dance and Festival a/d Werf, Argos, Centre for Art & Media, and KunstenFestivalDesArts.

      If I Can't Dance,
      I Don't Want to Be Part of
      Your Revolution