The Otolith Group: A Long Time Between Suns & Object Lessons: A Musical Fiction

7 August - 10 October 2010

The Otolith Group, A Long Time Between Suns, Otolith II 2007

London-based art collective and 2010 Turner Prize nominees The Otolith Group presented their work for the first time in New Zealand at the Adam Art Gallery. Their trilogy of film works and book project A Long Time Between Suns sympathetically re-orientates our perception of history by treating the past as an archival resource to re-envisage the future. Theirs is no utopian imagining, but a sceptical image of a ‘global’ future built from a disjuncture of sounds and images that tap into ideas of futurity and trans-national histories.

The Otolith Group was staged alongside Object Lessons: A Musical Fiction, an exhibition curated by Laura Preston and Mark Williams that also investigated the past in the interests of engaging the future. Five artists/collectives, who all operate between the spheres of music and the visual arts—Fitts & Holderness, DJ $1 Record aka Bryce Galloway, Caroline Johnston, Torben Tilly & Robin Watkins, and Ronnie van Hout—were invited to produce new works that took as their starting point the idea of “the record”.

The record is a dissemination device and a visual object, a record of the event in time and a commodification of a moment in history—Bruce Russell

Object Lessons was conceived in the wake of the digital download. The project investigated the visual forms of music as a way to address issues of documentation and distribution. It was curious about how histories accrue around this object as a material artefact and as a commodity. Intriguingly the music record provides access to the past and yet it implies an inevitable distance from the contexts and circumstances of its production. Therefore the lesson of this object is that while the past may be ultimately unobtainable, stories, memories, values, and beliefs assemble around it.

The exhibition explicitly focused on independent music production as a site where the social, economic and political effects of recording are re-negotiated by artists eager to work outside “the system” and usually “off the record”. Here questions of commodification were critically addressed and social and cultural codes are inventively reworked.

The works presented by the artists forecast the future by reconnecting with the past, to resist by reorienting the “impending tsunami” of the digital download and the modalities of communication within which music now circulates.

Object Lessons was the second project to be curated for the Adam Art Gallery’s Sound Check research initiative that explores the intersections between music and the visual arts. It was accompanied by a public programme of talks, workshops and performances. This exhibition project was accompanied by an illustrated publication with an essay by theorist and musician Bruce Russell and a CD interview with Campbell Kneale and Antony Milton.

Exhibitions supported by LUX, London, VideoPro, ImageLab and Coopers Creek.

Object Lessons Public Programme August-October 2010 [PDF]
The distribution issue: Nina Finigan reports on the Object Lessons Public Programme [PDF]

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Artist Ronnie van Hout on Upbeat, Radio New Zealand 3 August 2010 [mp3]

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Workshop on Music Distribution, 1 September 2010 [mp3]

Artists Ronnie Van Hout, Caroline Johnston and Bryce Galloway on Music 101, Radio New Zealand 14 August 2010


Object Lessons was accompanied by a catalogue which extrapolated on the artists’ works and the concerns raised by the exhibition. Essays by Bruce Russell, Laura Preston and Mark Williams. Design by The International Office. Order a copy here

The Otolith Group: A Long Time Between Suns published by Sternberg Press in 2009 was a component of the exhibition. Edited by Anna Colin and Emily Pethick. Contributions by Diana McCarty, Jean Matthee, and TJ Demos. Design by William Holder.