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John Akomfrah's acclaimed video installation Vertigo Sea
Vertigo Sea, a three-screen film, first seen at the 56th Venice Biennale as part of Okwui Enwezor's All the World's Futures exhibition, is a sensual, poetic and cohesive meditation on man's relationship with the sea and exploration of its role in the history of slavery, migration, and conflict. Fusing archival material, readings from classical sources, and newly shot footage, the work explicitly highlights the greed, horror and cruelty of the whaling industry. This material is then juxtaposed with shots of African migrants crossing the ocean in a journey fraught with danger in hopes of 'better life' and thus delivering a timely and potent reminder of the current issues around global migration, the refugee crisis, slavery, alongside ecological concerns.
Shot on the Isle of Skye, the Faroe Islands and the Northern regions of Norway, with the BBC's Bristol based Natural History Unit, Vertigo Sea draws upon 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.
This exhibition is part of a UK tour of Vertigo Sea and has been supported by funds awarded to Arnolfini, Bristol through Art Council England's Strategic Touring Fund.
Image: John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea (film still), 2015. © Smoking Dogs Films. Courtesy Lisson Gallery.
24 March – 23 July 2017
John Akomfrah is an artist and filmmaker whose works are characterised by their investigations into personal and collective histories and memory, cultural, ethnic and personal identity, post-colonialism and temporality. Importantly, his focus is most often on giving voice to the experience of the African diaspora in Europe and the USA.
A founding member of the influential Black Audio Film Collective, his work has been shown in museums and exhibitions around the world including the Liverpool Biennial; Documenta 11, Centre Pompidou, the Serpentine Gallery; Tate; and Southbank Centre, and MoMA, New York. A major retrospective of Akomfrah's gallery-based work with the Black Audio Film Collective premiered at FACT, Liverpool and Arnolfini, Bristol in 2007. His films have been included in international film festivals such as Cannes, Toronto, Sundance, amongst others.
John Akomfrah has been chosen from a shortlist of 6 of the world's most important artists to win the UK’s leading prize for international contemporary art, Artes Mundi 7