Arif Kornweitz, 2019


Kodwo Eshun of The Otolith Group describes the duo’s recursive strategy as “setting a trap for the predator who is setting a trap for its prey”.
In order to hunt, a predator thinks from the perspective of its prey: which means will it use to which ends? Where can the prey be trapped and how? Because of this temporary shift in perspective, briefly, the predator becomes its prey - only to complete its own objective to hunt and kill.

How can a predator be trapped? During the temporary shift to become its prey. the predator lets down its guard on certain complementary aspects. Not all aspects are mutually exclusive, but some may be. The human eye cannot focus on near and far at the same time. A person in a dark room gripping tight a stick to navigate around the room cannot simultaneously feel the detailed surface of that same stick.To identify the unguarded blurry aspects, one asks: Which aspects of the self does a predator temporarily relay/displace?

Identifying complementary aspects requires a tactical analysis similar to the methods of the predator. Ideally, placing oneself in the role of the predator to map the topology of its tactics leads to the identification of temporary gaps in the predator’s self. Can these be exploited by setting a trap for the predator?, Confusion of roles is both a strategy and a threat. How aware is the predator of the recursive topology? Has the analysis identified the gaps correctly or are those in fact recursive traps?

The predator’s paranoid ‘becoming self-aware to become the other’ opens up a window for agency. Whether or not that possibility for changing the conditions for change may be realised is down to a dynamic set of factors demanding an ongoing and paranoid analysis. Recursive traps may work but their effectiveness leads to fear in the eyes of the trapped predator. Managing that fear may become a new task. Reconfiguring a relationship prolongs its existence.

When asked what the group’s strategy of ‘setting a trap for the predator setting a trap’ requires, Eshun responded: “it requires a readiness to be disappointed”. He continued to describe a scene at the opening of an exhibition titled ‘No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia’ that the Otolith Group contributed to. During a dinner, Eshun found himself sitting next to an older white man who was visibly trying to compute the presence of Eshun at an exhibition about “Asia”, trying hard not to ask the question “why are you here?”, eventually failing and posing it nonetheless. Not out of interest, but out of sheer incapability to shift perspective for a non-predatory purpose. If the trapped predator does not realise he has been caught, did the trap work?    


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