In the Year of the Quiet Sun
The Otolith Group’s first solo exhibition in the Netherlands configures moments from the grand project of mid-twentieth century Pan-Africanism. Envisaged as the total liberation of the African continent from Europe’s empires, the project focuses on a micro artifact, namely the postal stamp, issued to commemorate the independence of African nation-states. In the Year of the Quiet Sun incorporates three major new works consisting of a film, an Incomplete Timeline of Independence Stamps with over 4,000 stamps, and an installation devoted to the first decade in the publishing of controversial journal Transition.
The post-lens based essay-film In the Year of the Quiet Sun, also the title of the exhibition, explores the role of the Ghana Philatelic Agency. This mysterious Wall Street company created the Pan-Africanist Pop aesthetic associated with the independent state of Ghana from 1957 until the overthrow of its first President, Kwame Nkrumah, in 1966. Connecting postal politics depicting antagonistic policies of newly independent states to the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement within the unstable context of the global Cold War, the title also points to the decrease in solar surface temperature that occurs every eleven years.
Occupying two rooms of Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory’s new space, the installation Statecraft envisions the short century of decolonization as a political calendar assembled from the medium of the postage stamp. These masscult artifacts were issued to commemorate the independence of Africa’s new nation-states, from Liberia in 1847 to South Sudan in 2011. Here they are integrated into an elaborate display system that functions indexically as an Incomplete Timeline of Independence Stamps, determined by Digital Auction. This formation reveals the iconography of independence as a combination of Pan-Africanist Pop Art, New Elizabethan cult of personality, and Social Realist portraiture.
The installation One Out of Many Afrophilias displays the first decade of the controversial periodical Transition founded in 1961 in Kampala, Uganda by poet and editor Rajat Neogy. From its inception, Transition acted as a platform for avant-garde African literature. It was also a crucible for an intense debate over the direction of African political cultures that only intensified in 1967, when its funders, the Congress for Cultural Freedom, were revealed to be supported by the Central Intelligence Agency. Issues 1 to 50 of Transition will be on display and copies will be available to browse.
The works in the exhibition were co-commissioned and co-developed in collaboration with Bergen Kunsthall and Casco in partnership with Artsonje Center, Seoul. In the Year of the Quiet Sun was co-commissioned by Casco and Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin and in partnership with Artsonje Center, Seoul. The initial conception of In the Year of Quiet Sun is made possible with special support of the Mondriaan Fund and also with thanks to Lukasz Stanek.
The exhibition is within the framework of collaborative research with Iaspis, Stockholm and Iniva, London, entitled Practice International, funded by the European Union Culture Programme. Casco’s program is made possible with the financial support of City Council of Utrecht, Mondriaan Fund, DOEN Foundation and the European Union Culture Programme.