Wandering Astronaut, Marauding Gorilla and Forlorn Travellers: John Akomfrah Film Installations

Art ExhibitionsNadia Herzog

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  • Installation image - Courtesy of Lisson Gallery

The first major exhibition in the United States by a prominent British filmmaker John Akomfrah is coming to Lisson Gallery in New York. Two of John Akomfrah film installations will be presented within this US debut show, having firstly been shown in January 2016 at the Lisson Gallery in London. As always, his work is immersed with memory investigations, post-colonialism, ephemerality, and aesthetics. John Akomfrah is known for the rich historical reference with the vibrant contemporary twist that he elaborates within his artwork, so the US audience will get the chance to discover the original footage of his latest work and enjoy the carefully crafted imagery and impeccable sound design of his films.
 

John Akromah - Teh Airport 2016 2 - Copyright Smoking Dog Films - Courtesy of Lisson Gallery

John Akomfrah – The Airport, 2016 – Copyright Smoking Dog Films; Courtesy of Lisson Gallery

 

Unique Homage to Stanley Kubrick and Theo Angelopolous

The Airport is the first of two film installations planned for the upcoming New York show. For this piece, the artist found the inspiration in Greece, connecting ancient Greek history with today’s Greek crisis. This art video consists of three screens that are playing films about the Greek contemporary situation, while revealing pictures of the landscapes of Southern Greece and an abandoned airport near Athens. The soundtrack for the film is composed by Akomfrah himself and in a way, this is an homage to the work of two film-making legends – Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999) and Theo Angelopolous (1935-2012). The film’s narrative embraces the literary, philosophical, artistic, and urban traditions, featuring unexpected and displaced characters. Presented vividly, there is an older man who is reliving moments from his past, as well as the nomadic astronaut, wrecking gorilla and hopeless travelers, embodying the film’s thought-provoking artistic approach to issues like the collective consciousness and the significance of the empire.
 

John Akromah - Teh Airport 2016 3 - Copyright Smoking Dog Films - Courtesy of Lisson Gallery

John Akomfrah – The Airport, 2016 – Copyright Smoking Dog Films; Courtesy of Lisson Gallery

 

Lyrical Drama on Migration Crisis

The second work at the exhibition is the Auto Da Fé (Acts of Faith), one of the John Akomfrah’s newest works with an extremely burning topic – migration. By looking to the dislocation through the lens of religious oppression, the film is presented as a lyrical drama, layering the migration crisis by depicting and documenting eight historical migrations over the last 400 years. It starts with Sephardic Jews fleeing from extremely catholic Brazil to Barbados in 1654 and ends with today’s migrations from Mosul in Iraq. This artistic documentary is inspired by the writings of George Lamming and it unveils the deeply traumatic experiences of the displaced populations. It is filmed in Barbados, but the scenery is deliberately left anonymous, in order to reflect the universal nature of the stories about the (forced) migration.
 

John Akromah - Teh Airport 2016 4 - Copyright Smoking Dog Films - Courtesy of Lisson Gallery

John Akomfrah – The Airport, 2016 – Copyright Smoking Dog Films; Courtesy of Lisson Gallery

 

John Akomfrah Film Installations in New York

After a great international recognition, John Akomfrah’s film installations will be presented in the United States for the first time. His work is to be exhibited at the Lisson Gallery in New York, where it is going to be on a display from June 24 until August 12, 2016. Ever since the 1980s, when John Akomfrah first came to attention as a founding member of the Black Audio Film Collective, where he collaborated with fellow artists David Lawson and Lina Gopaul, his career has been going up. At the 2015 Venice Biennale, he received an international acclaim for his three-screen film installation Vertigo Sea, which is pointing out the cruelty of the whaling industry as an important issue. The US audience will get the opportunity to see two of his latest film installations.

 

Featured image: John Akomfrah – Installation image – Courtesy of Lisson Gallery
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