Pan-Africanist Pop Art, New Elizabethan cult of personality, and Social Realist portraiture

Melanie Gilligan: The Common Sense, Phase 1

Melanie Gilligan's largest project to date, The Common Sense takes the form of a sci-fi mini-series which looks at how minds, bodies, and interpersonal relations are shaped by technological advancements within capitalism. This experimental narrative drama tells a story that revolves around a future technology which allows one to directly experience another person's bodily sensations and affect, a system that becomes widely adapted altering social interactions until it breaks down and alternative narratives unfold.

Gilligan draws upon a feminist sci-fi tradition that includes the work of writers Octavia E. Butler and Ursula K. Le Guin in which sci-fi is used as a means for both critiquing a social order and proposing a different vision. The story is also influenced by recent social movements and riots across the world responding to the "permanent crisis" of capitalism. Gilligan explores the complex relationship between the technological development as propelled by capitalist accumulation and how interpersonal relations and emotions are instrumentalized in this process. However, the artist also leaves open some uncertainty for possibilities regarding the new conditions technological change can create.

The Otolith Group: In the Year of the Quiet Sun

The post-lens 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 11 years. 

Occupying two rooms of Casco'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. The formation reveals the iconography of independence as a combination of Pan-Africanist Pop Art, New Elizabethan cult of personality, and Social Realist portraiture.