John Akomfrah: Vertigo Sea

11. February 2016 to 8. May 2016

VERTIGO SEA”, 2015, 48 min. The film is shown in loop.

We are proud to present the London-based artist and film director John Akomfrah, who is showing the large-scale epic work “Vertigo Sea” – a three-channel video installation describing man’s relationship with the sea. Through the combination of archival material from BBC Natural History Unit with magnificent film recordings from Scotland, Norway and the Faroe Islands Akomfrah explores our ability to survive at sea from fishing to migration, war and conflict, slavery and colonisation of the world. “Vertigo Sea” is a poetic and meditative portrayal of man’s relationship with nature, beauty, choice and defencelessness.

“Vertigo Sea" was premiered at the 56th Venice Biennial in 2015, All the World’s Futures.

In his characteristic style John Akomfrah combines archival material, still pictures and recordings of selected text material. His works are characterised by an overall interest in personal and collective stories, memories as well as cultural, ethnic and personal identity. He was a co-founder of the Black Audio Film Collective in London in 1982 with, among others, David Lawson and Lina Gopaul, both of whom he is still working with in the production company Smoking Dogs Film. In their breakthrough film Handsworth Songs (1986), they employed archival recordings, still images and news stories to explore the events and the underlying causes of the 1985 riots in Birmingham and London. The film won several major international prizes, and with its multilayered visual technique it established Akomfrah’s characteristic style. Some of his later works are The Stuart Hall Project (2013), a moving portrait of the life and work of cultural theoretician Stuart Hall; Peripetia (2012), a visual drama attempting to recreate the story of two portraits of unknown persons, painted in the 16th century by Albrecht Dürer; Questioning the idea of England as the Promised Land, Mnemosyne (2010) centres on migrant experience in Great Britain by pointing to the economic and racial inequalities of the country.

John Akomfrah (1957), born in Accra, Ghana, lives and works in London.