The EQUATIONS FOR A BODY AT REST archive is a living repository of texts and artwork relating to the Commonwealth Games and to the Commonwealth organisation itself, from its genesis in empire to the current day, and beyond. This archive grew out the project EQUATIONS FOR A BODY AT REST, created by Johannesburg-based artist Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi, in response to the Birmingham Games of 2022. It was part of the Birmingham 2022 Games Festival.
The title derives from Newton’s first law of motion: ‘A body remains at rest, or in motion at a constant speed in a straight line, unless acted upon by a force.’ The body in this case is the Commonwealth. What has changed since its conception in the last days of the British Empire? What has stayed the same? What forces have acted on it? What forces should still be brought to bear? The archive is a place to engage with these questions, among others. It is designed to illuminate, provoke and inspire.
The Same Track is a short film that played on screens outside of the Commonwealth Games stadiums, as well as at events in Birmingham during the 2022 Commonwealth Games. It uses archival footage of Commonwealth Games athletes, spectators, and administrators cut together with images of economic and promotional activity in various British colonies and Commonwealth states. The Same Track draws attention to the fact that the Games is implicated in an ongoing political project centuries in the making.
An important component of the EQUATIONS FOR A BODY AT REST project was a series of posters which were displayed around Birmingham for the duration of the 2022 Games. The poster series is called The Name Game and viewers could scan a QR code on the posters and it would bring them to this website. The posters explore the relationship between the presentation of the Commonwealth Games (and the Commonwealth itself) and the historical truths that lie behind that presentation.
While the EQUATIONS FOR A BODY AT REST team was doing general research for the project – reading, listening to and watching material about the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth Games – we discovered a great number of articles, presentations, maps and others things that we found thought-provoking and wanted to share. This is when the idea to create a website came about: a portal where people could access these articles, maps, etc, and think for themselves about these things and what they mean and suggest. The material was divided into four categories, titled REALM, RELAY, RELATIONSHIP and REIMAGINE, each approaching a different aspect of the Commonwealth.
The posters and film from that comprise the EQUATIONS FOR A BODY AT REST project were shown on the streets of Birmingham for several weeks during the 2022 Commonwealth Games. We were gratified to be able to share our perspective and insights with a large public audience, in particular those whose lives and histories have also been affected by colonialism.