Artist talk: John Akomfrah

Artist talk: John AkomfrahArtist talk: John Akomfrah


Coinciding with the opening of the exhibition The Coming World: Ecology as the New Politics 2030–2100 Garage will deliver an artist talk by John Akomfrah, author of the monumental video installation Purple displayed at the show.

John Akomfrah will speak about the early stages of his practice dating back to the 1980s when he was among the founding members of the radical Black Audio Film Collective. Bringing together black British multimedia artists, the Collective’s activity focused on the social perturbations in Thatcher’s Britain by experimenting with documentary film language. Akomfrah’s individual career started in 1986 with his debut picture Handsworth Songs filmed during the 1985 riots in Handsworth and London and featuring the singing of a humpback whale. In his more recent works, for example the documentary The Nine Muses about a massive oil spill in Alaska, the artist addresses environmental issues directly, as his signature cinematic manner is gaining momentum.

In the poetics invented by John Akomfrah, the visual and acoustic polyphony, orchestrated by the effects of art montage, along with the contamination of different narratives combine to form a space raising questions and producing new meanings, as well as the atmosphere of some special sensual aesthetics absorbing the viewer.

The artist will also address his latest multichannel installations and explain how the spatial and temporal interaction in his works alters the more common single-channel film, how the acoustics of his pieces is organized, and why the practice of utilizing archival material impacts the environment as a whole, and the ecology of film production in particular. This part of the talk is dedicated to his most recent works, including the cinematic trilogy which began with the three-channel video installation Vertigo Sea (2015), resumed in Purple (2017) and was completed with the newest piece Four Nocturnes (2019) currently on show in the Ghana Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

Commissioned by the Barbican, London and co-commissioned by Bildmuseet Umeå, Sweden, TBA21–Academy, The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, Museu Coleção Berardo, Lisbon, and Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow



John Akomfrah (b. 1957, Accra, Ghana) is an artist, writer, and filmmaker. He graduated from the University of Portsmouth (UK) in 1982. He was one of the founders of the Black Audio Film Collective (1982–1988). Solo exhibitions include the New Museum (New York, 2018), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2018), the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum (Madrid, 2018), and Tate Modern (London, 2013). In 2011, Akomfrah’s film and video works were shown at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. He has taken part in biennials in Venice (2019, 2015), Taipei (2016, 2012), Sharjah (2013), and Liverpool (2012). He lives and works in London.

how to take part

Free admission with advance registration.

The event is in English with simultaneous translation.