I have never quite been able to give myself over to science fiction. Life on present day earth with all its eccentric characters and bizarre events is challenging enough; I don’t have space in my day to think about what life is like in galaxies far, far away, hundreds of years from now. With the recent events in Egypt, Turkey and Brazil, however, I have become more and more interested in what it means to imagine a different future — and one that is radically unlike the present. This has led me to ideas in line with those that inform science fiction, and particularly, the work of The Otolith Group.
The Otolith Group was established in 2002 by Anjalika Sagar and Kowdo Eshun. Their work spans filmmaking, publishing, programming, and curating. The Otolith Group’s essay-films draw on archival material, from images of Valentina Tereshkova — who in 1973 was the first woman in space — to footage of the global protests against the impending invasion of Iraq in 2003. This archival material is woven together with new footage to create essay documentaries that reverberate between fiction and reality. The group describes the ‘Otolith Trilogy’ 2003-09 as science fiction of the present. This is a reference to the work of JG Ballard, who argued that science fiction should create myths about the near future, rather than the far-off future. Though mixing ideas of the future with truths and fictions of the past and present, The Otolith Group create works of science fiction that acutely comment on the current state of the world.
The reason I am drawn to the work of The Otolith Group is the way that they alter our understanding of what informs our past, present and future. And through changing our relationship to the present, we in turn change our future.
Works by The Otolith Group are screening at the Australian Cinémathèque, GOMA in July.