02/08/2017

John Akomfrah will present "Purple" at the Barbican Centre in London from October



John Akomfrah: Purple

6 October 2017 - 7 January 2018
Curve Gallery





British artist and filmmaker, and winner of the 2017 Artes Mundi prize, John Akomfrah has been commissioned to create a new work for the Curve. His most ambitious project to date, Purple is an immersive, six-channel video installation addressing climate change and its effects on human communities, biodiversity and the wilderness.

At a time, when according to the UN, greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are at their highest levels in history, with people experiencing the significant impacts of climate change, including shifting weather patterns, rising sea level, and more extreme weather events, Akomfrah’s Purple brings a multitude of ideas into conversation including animal extinctions, the memory of ice, the plastic ocean and global warming. Akomfrah has combined hundreds of hours of archival footage with newly shot film and a hypnotic sound score to produce the video installation.

The exhibition has been commissioned by the Barbican, London and co-commissioned by Bildmuseet Umeå, Sweden, TBA21-Academy, The Institute of Contemporary Art/ Boston and Museu Coleção Berardo, Lisbon.
This event is part of:
Barbican Art Gallery in London presents major exhibitions by leading international figures in the heart of the City of London
John Akomfrah
The Airport, 2016
Three channel HD colour video installation, 7.1 sound (installation view)
53 minutes
© Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

John Akomfrah
Tropikos, 2016
Single channel HD colour video, 5.1 sound (installation view)
36 minutes 41 seconds
© Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery
John Akomfrah is a hugely respected artist and filmmaker, whose works are characterised by their investigations into memory, post-colonialism, temporality and aesthetics and often explore the experience of the African diaspora in Europe and the USA. Akomfrah was a founding member of the influential Black Audio Film Collective, which started in London in 1982 alongside the artists David Lawson and Lina Gopaul, who he still collaborates with today. Their first film, Handsworth Songs (1986) explored the events surrounding the 1985 riots in Birmingham and London through a charged combination of archive footage, still photos and newsreel. The film won several international prizes and established a multi-layered visual style that has become a recognisable motif of Akomfrah’s practice. Recent works include the three-screen installation The Unfinished Conversation (2012), a moving portrait of the cultural theorist Stuart Hall’s life and work; Peripeteia (2012), an imagined drama visualising the lives of individuals included in two 16th century portraits by Albrecht Dürer and Mnemosyne (2010) which exposes the experience of migrants in the UK, questioning the notion of Britain as a promised land by revealing the realities of economic hardship and casual racism. In 2015, Akomfrah premiered his three-screen film installation Vertigo Sea (2015), that explores what Ralph Waldo Emerson calls ‘the sublime seas’. Fusing archival material, readings from classical sources and newly shot footage, Akomfrah’s piece focuses on the disorder and cruelty of the whaling industry and juxtaposes it with scenes of many generations of migrants making epic crossings of the ocean for a better life. Shot on the island of Skye, the Faroe Islands and the Northern regions of Norway, Vertigo Sea has as its narrative spine two remarkable books: Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (1851) and Heathcote Williams’ epic poem Whale Nation (1988), a harrowing and inspiring work which charts the history, intelligence and majesty of the largest mammal on earth. 
Akomfrah (born 1957, Accra, Ghana) lives and works in London. He has had numerous solo exhibitions including The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne, Australia (2017); Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, UK (2017); University of New South Wales, Paddington, Australia (2016); Turner Contemporary, Margate, UK (2016); The Exchange, Penzance, UK (2016); Nikolaj Kunsthal, Copenhagen, Denmark (2016); STUK Kunstcentrum, Leuven, Belgium (2016); Arnolfini, Bristol, UK (2016); Bildmuseet Umeå, Sweden (2015); Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, Michigan, USA (2014); Tate Britain, London, UK (2013-14) and a week long series of screenings at MoMA, New York, USA (2011). His participation in international group shows has included: 'Restless Earth', La Triennale di Milano, Milan, Italy (2017); 'Unfinished Conversations', Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NY, USA (2017); 'The Place is Here', Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham, UK (2017); ‘The 1980s: Today’s Beginnings?', Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands (2016); 'British Art Show 8’ (2015-17); ‘All the World’s Futures’, 56th Venice Biennale, Italy (2015); ‘History is Now: 7 Artists Take On Britain’, Hayward Gallery, London, UK (2015); ‘Africa Now: Politcal Patterns’, SeMA, Seoul, South Korea (2014); Sharjah Biennial 11, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (2013); Liverpool Biennial, UK (2012) and Taipei Biennial, Taiwan (2012). He has also been featured in many international film festivals, including Sundance Film Festival, Utah, USA (2013 and 2011) and Toronto International Film Festival, Canada (2012). 
Current and recent projects: 

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