John Akomfrah: Purple

Exhibition, Barbican – Curve Gallery, London, UK.


From October 6, 2017 until January 7, 2018
British artist and filmmaker 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 installation 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.
John Akomfrah (born 1957) lives and works in London. He is a respected artist and filmmaker, whose works are characterised by their investigations into memory, post-colonialism, temporality and aesthetics and often explores the experiences of migrant diasporas globally. 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’. Winner of the 2017 Artes Mundi Prize.