In 1953, acclaimed African-American novelist Richard Wright travelled to the Gold Coast to accompany Kwame Nkrumah’s Conventions People’s Party – West Africa’s first mass socialist party – on their campaign for independence from British rule. Black Power: A Record of Reactions in a Land of Pathos (1954), Wright’s critical and personal account of this first direct encounter with the African continent, was initially conceptualised as an ambitious photo-text. The over 1’500 photographs that Wright had taken on his ten-week journey remained unpublished, however, and are now in large parts digitised and housed in Yale University.
For Nucleus of the Great Union, the London-based artist collective The Otolith Group gradually revisited Wright’s photographic archive in order to rearrange and reconfigure it on a computer desktop, which has become the established cultural technique to store, archive and order information as well as to search and consume, research, process and finally transform into organised knowledge. Exploring the potential as well as the dangers opened up by digital archives to access and (re-)configure historical material, Nucleus of the Great Union triggers a critical reflection on the formation of knowledge in the digital age through a dialectical relationship between image, text, sound and video elements. By creating new constellations of historical sources and numerous links between them, it reimagines Black Power as “an aesthetic of espionage assembled from still images with floating captions”. Finally, by overlaying poems, eyewitness reports and historical visual material of political events, the work not only makes palpable the tensions and the trepidation that accompanied the political and cultural transfer of the Gold Coast colony to the independent Republic of Ghana, but also epitomises a circular search for historical truth.
More by The Otolith Group: otolithgroup.org